Hearsay and Heartbreak
I report on Saturdays.
Today, I followed an ongoing story related to three separate shooting deaths in North Portland last weekend. They happened in the same area within a 48-hour period. Police haven’t confirmed whether they’re connected, but the latter two victims – Ricky and Pat Andrews- are siblings.
My day-long effort to talk to their family didn’t go so well. Contacts told me the family is upset with the media. ALL media. I’m still trying to pin down exactly why that is. Then, the race issue crept in. I was told local news outlets had lost the “trust” of the black community. I checked our scripts and I honestly didn’t notice anything that was blatantly wrong or inflammatory. I think their concerns had something to do with us identifying the two victims with their mug shots (supplied by Portland police). I can see why they’d be upset about this, but if the families won’t talk to us or give us photos– we have to air what we have. What do you think? Is that right?
With a deadline looming, I became incredibly frustrated. Not only was the victims’ family not talking to us, community leaders canceled or refused interviews with me out of fear they’d upset the family even more. This disappointed me because I felt our mission on this day was to help inform the public and to catch a suspect, not to divide the community even more and scare people into silence.
I despise getting grouped in with the big, bad Media. Who knows, maybe one of our competitors messed up somewhere. In any case, we certainly felt the fall-out. Still, I have to have some compassion for this family. They are planning two funerals simultaneously. If I were in their shoes, I would probably be an emotional wreck.
By mid-afternoon (considered late in TV news land), a tip led us to the corner of N. Williams and N. Beech. This is the scene of the third shooting last Sunday. There, a very select number of family members decided they would speak out since no one else would. The informal turnout included a cousin, a daughter, and an ex-girlfriend. They plead for the public’s help finding the killer(s). It was moving to hear them talk so lovingly about two individuals whose records obviously indicate they made some poor choices until the very end.
Everybody needs closure. Some people find that solace through sharing their loved one’s story with the local news. I hope they feel I was fair to them tonight. They were really brave to talk.