This past Sunday, I wrote an article wherein I asked The News-Gazette to apologize to the family of Cristian Zamora, a recently deceased UIUC grad, for interrogating them about the coroner's report that disclosed that he was found to have had marijuana metabolites in his system.
I even started a Change.org petition, to see if others felt the same way. Over the course of the week, over 550 people signed it, and asked the same.
And here is the reason why: no matter how many people signed it, or end up signing it, the people who control the content of The News-Gazette are by and large cowards.
You can read it on the Editorial page almost daily. Whether it's Jim Dey's simplistic brand of callous neo-conservative rambling, or a front page "if-it-bleeds-it-leads story", sensationalizing the wave of gun crime currently tearing parts of our city into halves, the brass over on Main Street have shown time and time again that they're more interested in the number of times you click on an article than they are reporting meaningfully on what's happening in our community and why it matters.
To apologize would show weakness. It would force them to acknowledge their humanity, and to own up to their flaws, and that's not something they've ever done, or will ever do. Believe me, they will go down kicking and screaming, lamenting the faults of a progressive society, one that places a premium on equal rights, redemption, and dare I say it, contrition.
No, The News-Gazette isn't in that business. Ultimately, they are in the business of scaring you.
Which is too bad, because with the number of fine beat writers that they employ, I will continue to read them, and likely, so will you.
In truth, nothing will really change as a result of the News-Gazette's botched coverage, or of our community's outcry. Admit it: you've already stopped thinking about this for the most part, right? I know that it's definitely further down my list today, moreso than it was yesterday, and the day before that. Am I right?
Anyhow, this will get a requisite and obligatory mention in Tom's Mailbag later today, I am sure, where it will be defended similarly to how they defended themselves when taken to task for scraping content from the Champaign County Jail to publish mugshots of unconvicted people who were recently arrested.
And that's the best we'll get.
In the meantime, people who are considering a job here, or to stick around after college, will, at some point, look at the News-Gazette, and shake their head in disbelief, the way so many of us who already live here do on a daily basis.
My advice: stick to the writers who seem to be able to publish what they wish, and without those same tactics that the ownership employs daily: Melissa Merli, Don Dodson, Marcus Jackson, Paul Wood, Chuck Koplinski, Nicole LaFond, Meg Dickinson, Andrew Howie, Tim Ditman, Fred Kroner, and yes, goddamnit, Tom Kacich.
There are others, I am sure, and they deserve commendation for their work, for having to put up with writing for a newspaper that seems to believe the community that reads it actually wants this sort of news.
We've all worked jobs where we had to just silently judge our bosses, and while I'm remiss to put words into anyone's mouth, I'd like to imagine this is the case more often than not at The News-Gazette. Who knows?
Well, I suppose I don't, but what I do know is that good people don't behave in this way. Normal humans don't think it's okay to pick up the phone and call a bereaved family for an article that doesn't absolutely, positively require their voice. Normal humans consider the humanity of those around them, and when they get sidetracked, or lost, and get called out on it, they apologize.
The people who run the News-Gazette are not normal humans. They don't really seem to be human at all, at times. Sadly, this is one of those times, and it's too bad, because as a result of their unwillingness to reflect, their unwillingness to show compassion, our entire community loses.