THE BLOG
07/25/2014 11:32 am ET Updated Sep 24, 2014

Holding the Media Accountable, One Phone Call at a Time

There used to be a time when the news was really just all about reporting the news. Somewhere along the way and maybe in part due to the expansion of mass media, news sources, probably feeling that they needed to stand out from the competition, began to sensationalize the stories they covered. As a result of going for the "shock factor", we now find that victims of violent crimes are being revictimized. News media now seems more interested in showcasing the faces of demented killers and talking about the gory details without any regard for the feelings of the victims.

Recently, I saw a news story about a body falling out of the back of a coroner's vehicle, out into the middle of the street, complete with a photograph of the body. Not only is that not newsworthy, but can you imagine being the loved one of the deceased? How would that make you feel seeing that story all over the internet?

Some people will say don't blame the media. They're just giving the public what it wants to see. I'm not buying that. People will always seek a respectable news source that produces accurate and thought provoking stories in a tasteful intelligent way. No one's going to suddenly stop watching the news if doesn't include all the hyperbole. I also don't buy into the notion that media needs to add the shock factor in order to gain market share. If revenue is the sole priority, then that's not a real news agency.

Let me relate a personal experience to you. At the recent pre-trial hearing of the Alturas mass shooing perpetrator, the District Attorney released into evidence a tape from an audio recorder that was on in the room during the actual shooting. I read news stories that covered all of the pertinent facts of the hearing, telling a story of the events of the hearing in an intelligent fashion. Then, I came across one news station who printed nothing more than a written transcript of the audio recording. They even felt the need to include the expletives. The story had all of the shock value and very little of the facts.

When I saw the story, my initial reaction was one of disgust. I was so appalled, that I called the station and asked to speak with the News Director. I called, and called and called. I called and left messages for her for three days in a row. I was about to call the Station Manager, when finally, I got a return phone call. I told the News Director that I am the husband of one of the victims and I found her story to be extremely distasteful and totally disrespectful to the victims and families. I told her that she should be ashamed of herself for publishing that story. I politely asked her to do the right thing and take the story down. She told me that she could certainly understand my point of view, but she didn't see anything wrong with the article. I couldn't convince her to take the story down. She did however, agree to rewrite it. I would have done whatever it took to get that story either taken down or changed, including calling her and the station out by name in social media public forums.

Someone asked me the question, what could be done to incentivize the media to be more focused on telling the stories of the victims of crime and not spotlighting the perpetrators? I thought for a moment, and answered, "Nothing". I don't think "incentive" is really the right word or maybe even the right tact to take. Instead, it's really more a matter of, how do we make them more compassionate and respectful towards victims and their families.

I saw a television show that illustrated how the use of "shaming" was a successful means of holding accountable those who act outside the boundaries of acceptable behavior. Perhaps the media doesn't even think it's doing anything wrong at all. To them it's just a part of doing everyday business. Have they lost touch with the notion of who's reading their stories and how they will be affected by it?

That very well may be the case. If so, then it is our responsibility to let them know they've gone too far. We need to publicly "shame" them to send the message that what they're doing is traumatizing people who have already suffered much. We need to pick up the phone and call the TV stations, newspapers, whoever and let them know that what they're putting out is not news but downright offensive. It's offensive to our sense of standards and to our sense of intelligence. If we don't hold the media accountable, then to what extent will they go?

Our current judicial system already puts all emphasis on protecting the rights of perpetrators. Very little is being done at this time to protect the rights of the victims. We don't need to suffer all over again at the hands of the media.

Some people have told me that I need to lower my expectations of the media. My response to that is NO. Not only do I refuse to, I'm not sure that I'm even able to. That's not who I am, or could ever imagine myself being. So I will continue to fight back, one phone call at a