News; whether you like it or not.

I just finished reading through a touching article that was written by Gordon Sinclair Jr. for the Winnipeg Free Press.

The story is about Les Mulholland, a young Winnipeg Jets fan who recently passed away, and the fact that the richest man in Canada and owner of the Winnipeg Jets club David Thomson actually attended his funeral.

I read through the entire article and, like probably everyone who read it, I found it touching and heart-warming to read about such a simple, kind-hearted act by such a rich and powerful man.

It was eye-opening to me that I didn’t expect what I found in the reader comments:

– “I haven’t liked Sinclair’s columns for quite a while. Something slimy and underhandedly sinister in them. Now he hit the bottom of the barrel. Yes, nice story about a remarkable man. But — it was meant to be PRIVATE, and is NONE OF OUR BUSINESS. This is not a Hollywood tabloid. Write about something relevant. Not sleazy and for your own gratification. Stop it.”

– “Invasion of privacy – for all parties.”

– “You called the grieving parents? I’m not sure if I’m more ashamed of you or me. You for writing this rubbish or for me reading it.”

The comments go on.

I feel for Sinclair in this situation. This is the nature of our business, but it doesn’t mean that we have no soul, or that we don’t sometimes struggle to carry out our job requirements.

I find it very unlikely that Sinclair was sitting at his desk, rubbing his hands together, a sly grin on his face as he prepared to capitalize on and exploit a young man’s death for his own personal gain.

The fact of the matter is there was a genuinely intriguing and worthwhile story here. Proven by the fact that the people who are attacking Sinclair are only able to do so because they read the entire article. If it was a dud, they would have closed their tab after paragraph one and wouldn’t have even been in a position to spout off about how slimy of a human being Sinclair is.

We, as journalists, are paid to find about these interesting little stories, talk to relevant people about them, and present the facts to whomever they may concern, whether it’s for their entertainment or to inform them.

Sometimes you read a story or see a photo that makes you say, “That’s terrible.” Yes, it is terrible, but you know what? It was probably more terrible for the journalist who had to completely trivialize that event by either snapping a photo of it, or conducting a business-like interview with the grieving family, or whoever it may be.

The fact is; that’s our job.

We can’t just turn a blind eye to something like David Thomson going to a regular Joe’s funeral because… People. Want. To. Hear. About. It.

All that the readers attacking Sinclair are feeling is the exact same thing that we feel for covering it, but to a lesser degree; guilt for actually finding it interesting.

I’ve spoken to grieving families, and taken photos of sensitive things, and it’s not easy.

Most recently I was covering a Midget AA hockey game where one of the young players was injured. He was lying motionless on the ice at the time, and I came down from the stands and out onto the ice to try and get a good photo. Everyone was looking at me like I was the devil incarnate.

But when it comes time to write the article about that boy and his injury, I’ve got an exclusive photo that we can run that will bring readers to right where I was standing, without them actually having to be standing there; because they don’t want to be.

People want to read this stuff and want to see these photos, but don’t enjoy the feeling of guilt that comes along with it. So they attack the person who brought it to them. It’s as simple as that.

    • Lesley
    • October 15th, 2012

    Interesting point of view. I too was one of those people who commented negatively to Gordon Sinclair Jr. but it’s interesting to see how a journalist views the situation.

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