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The Media Must Handle the McNair Tragedy with a Soft Touch

By Bob Cunningham On July - 4 - 2009

When celebrities or well-known sports figures pass on, the media is quick to hop on the story and get as many details as possible.

First, they attempt to gain information from the police and do some investigative digging to try and find out the scoop on what happened. Then, they turn to friends and family, looking for something they can put in quotations on the front page.

Watching the recent media circus around Michael Jackson’s unfortunate death left me appalled and ashamed of every person holding a microphone or pen and pad.

His body was recorded being transported from the hospital to the helicopter; every gruesome detail of the autopsy was presented in the same way the great Harry Kalas used to analyze a Phillies game, and anyone who ever knew the man had a microphone shoved in his/her face just looking for a quote to gain some reads.

When someone of high profile is lost, too many members of the media look at it as a way to get some more viewers, more subscribers, and more readers. Rather than realizing that a human life has been lost, they see it as simply another news story.

Don’t get me wrong—it’s the job of the media to get the information and to report the facts, but it’s the way in which the reporting is done and the way the facts are attained that will be the judgment of the individual.

As in the case of Steve McNair and the woman with whom he shared his final moments, a senseless act of violence took them away from this world and ended the one thing of which we all take advantage.

What we often forget is that these people, high profile or not, were in fact people.

Steve McNair was a family man. He had a wife, children, and relatives. He had friends who loved and cared for him. He wasn’t simply a walking trading card, or the real-life version of a man in a video game.

In short, the media professionals reporting this story should not be judged so much on what details they report or how quickly they get them, but rather how they got them.

A soft touch must be used in an instance such as this awful tragedy. There are countless people suffering right now because of the loss of this man.

Don’t shove a microphone into the face of his wife, his children, his friends, or any other extended family member simply to gain popularity with your article, radio show, or on-screen report.

I once heard the saying, “Journalists are here to comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.”

Right now, these people are afflicted. Comfort them, rather than furthering their pain. Have some restraint in the time and manner in which the story is approached.

Remember, this was not simply the death of Steve McNair: potential Hall of Fame quarterback. It was also the death of Steve McNair: father, husband, and friend.

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