Leave them to their grief, please

May 3, 2004
By

A second-day story in the St. Pete Times opens with a description of a man breaking down because he’s arrived at the place where his 16-year-old daughter died the day before when her SUV swerved out of control, flipped and hit a tree.

TAMPA – Kyle Tidwell wanted to see the exact spot where his daughter fell.

Tidwell found it Sunday afternoon, marked with a neon green circle of paint. He knelt down, buried his head in the grass and cried.

Around him, scores of people silently shared his grief for the deaths Saturday of his 16-year-old daughter, Naomi Tidwell, and fellow Chamberlain High School sophomore Tiffany Tripp, 16.

I’m not purposely making an example of this story — it’s one of a million we’ve done the same way over the years. This one’s well reported and capably written. My main concern is the intrusion on this poor dad who is having an emotional breakdown. Why is it so essential to take the lowest point in this guy’s life and broadcast it to the four winds?

Even if the guy does this in public with the cameras rolling, and even if the breakdown-at-the-death-scene was at least somewhat staged (how is it that the press happen to be there at this precise moment anyway?), we should let him have this private moment to himself. Our need for an emotional hook for a story does not override his need to be left alone at a time of intense personal anguish.

So, leave the guy alone. It’s just the humane, decent thing to do.

2 Responses to Leave them to their grief, please

  1. Jeff on May 3, 2004 at 10:52 am

    What bothers me is how little hesitation reporters and editors have at using moments like these as a device. Too often, it masks other deficiencies in the story.

  2. Phillip Blanchard on May 3, 2004 at 12:14 pm

    Closely related is the so-and-so “breaks down in grief” photo. Usually it’s closely cropped, without “visual context,” so the aggrieved person could just as well be reacting to a dropped fly ball as to the death of a loved one.