Media made it harder for mourners

Nanaimo still has the luxury of being on the periphery of a world where major tragedies and violence are a daily occurrence.

It was the morning after the multiple shooting at Western Forest Products.

A woman approached a memorial of red shirts and flower bouquets growing on the fence where some of the shirts bore handwritten messages from sons and daughters at the threshold of fathoming their loss.

The woman paused with her flowers, unsure what to do when she saw me and a colleague crouched with our cameras, then she stepped forward and hurriedly placed the bouquet.

As she went to leave she was swarmed by reporters and cameras, and she froze as the questions emanated from behind the cameras and note pads. “Did you know them?” “Are you related?” “What made you come down this morning?”

I backed away, wondering what the hell I was doing there. What any of the media, including two remote location trucks, crews, reporters, lighting units, video cameras and tripods, photographers with big $5,000 lenses, were doing there anymore. I was sent to get a photo of someone visiting the memorial and I arrived to find the parking lot filled with media people, cars and equipment – the gauntlet anyone approaching the mill had to run, even if it was just to place some flowers. It was as if the families, friends, coworkers or anyone trying to come to terms with the tragedy were victimized by the event and again by the media.

I’m no better. I agreed to stay, take the photos and ask questions, even after expressing my disgust at the menagerie that greeted me when I drove onto the site.

What more could be told from here? Why would any news agency waste its resources positioning so much equipment and personnel where nothing was happening or likely would happen? The victims’ families had come and gone, I was told. What more was there to be leached from this scene that could further the story?

I waited from a distance for the scrum to break up and apologized. I didn’t know what else to say. It really rattled her. She was shaking.

A bank of cameras suddenly looming in one’s face can be an intimidating experience when it’s part of a routine of the job, but a crime of this magnitude in Nanaimo is anything but routine and maybe I was naive to think media would depart from its routine for a major story – just this once.

The woman gave me her name and we talked for a few minutes.

She didn’t know the victims or their families. Placing the flowers was simply her way of showing support and compassion for them. What she didn’t say was perhaps it was her way of helping comprehend what happened. A moment to stand in contemplation, to find a few precious seconds of stillness, like stealing away for a few moments in a chapel to light a votive candle.

She never got that moment. Maybe if we weren’t there she would have. Maybe the victims’ families would have. Maybe Nanaimo would have.

I found her experience disturbing, probably because Nanaimo still has the luxury of being on the periphery of a world where major tragedies and violence are a daily occurrence – and the blessing of not having become desensitized to them because of their rarity here.

But I can’t help think that in the crush to feed the media machine with every nuance of information, for something to say after the commercial break or to scrabble up and hold a position at the peak of the Google search engine pyramid, that we’ve lost human empathy for the people we’re reporting about and even destroy the story media came to report in exchange for a regurgitated package retooled to fit a predetermined, routine format.

I think we all would have been better served by a more humane approach.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

VIDEO: Virus Busters assemble to take on COVID-19 germs in Langley

A team of 20 business owners and employees are working to kill viral bacteria in public places

VIDEO: Langley schools transition students to at-home learning

During the next two weeks a new model will be rolled out to parents, pupils of kids in public school

Two Fraser Valley care home workers confirmed to have COVID-19

Health authority has a team at a Langley and a Surrey seniors facilities informing staff, residents

Why is this Langley pedestrian bridge purple?

Cole Harmony Bridge connects pedestrians to either side of 68th Avenue at 200th Street

VIDEO: Langley women makes homemade masks for neighbours amid COVID-19 pandemic

Masks are made of paper towel, elastic bands, and staples

Trudeau announces 75% wage subsidy for small businesses amid COVID-19

This is up from the previously announced 10 per cent wage subsidy

World update, 9:30 p.m. March 27: Positive news in Korea as U.S. hits 100,000 cases

The United States now has the most coronavirus cases of any country in the world

VIDEO: Penguins roam empty halls of Vancouver Aquarium

COVID-19 has forced the Vancouver Aquarium to close access to guests – leaving room for its residents

Significant snowfall forecast for Interior mountain passes

Allison Pass, the Okanagan Connector, Rogers Pass and Kootenay Pass could see 15 to 25 cm of snow

Kids get back to learning in B.C., online

Ministry of Education rolls out new tool for school

67 more B.C. COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Vancouver region

Positive tests found in Surrey, Langley long-term care facilities

‘Now is not the time to bag that peak’: BCSAR manager discourages risky outdoor adventures

Call volumes are not going down, even as the COVID-19 pandemic persists

Food Banks BC already seeing surge in demand due to COVID-19 pandemic

Executive director Laura Lansink said they expect applications will keep increasing

Nanaimo couple caught aboard cruise ship with four dead and COVID-19 present

Four ‘older guests’ have died on Holland America’s Zaandam; cruise line confirms two COVID-19 cases

Most Read