Victim profiles tell everyone each life is important

July 15, 2007 

Everyone in the South Sound grieves over the deaths of innocents such as Zina Linnik and Paul Limstrom.

The 12-year-old Tacoma girl and the 10-year-old Lakewood boy were found dead last week in separate incidents.

In the newsroom, such horrific stories take two paths. One – the crime story – is fairly straightforward. We find out as much as we can, as early as we can, and we share it.

The other story is to tell about their lives.

In the newsroom, that second story creates a tough balance that we actively talk about. How do we write about the children, as a way to say their lives were important, and not add to the families’ distress?

Some people think it’s invasive to tell such stories, that the family and the community trauma is so great that another story – even a profile of the victim – is too much.

I remember Edna Buchanan, the mystery-book author and longtime police reporter for The Miami Herald, telling a group of journalists a story about such work.

Edna saw part of her job as writing brief profiles about every victim of homicide in Miami, a big job in a sprawling and sometimes violent city. In one particularly bloody period she lost track of the death of a young girl in one of the poorest, deadliest neighborhoods in the city. The child, raised alone by her grandmother, was killed by a stray bullet in a drive-by shooting.

At the end of the year Edna realized she hadn’t done the brief profile she meant to on the young victim. She returned to the grandmother’s apartment and knocked. When she explained her mission, that she was there to write a story about the girl, the grandmother said: “I’ve been waiting for you.”

After the police had gone, and a few neighbors had expressed condolences, no one had come from the community at large to express interest, and thereby indicate that this one little girl’s life was important to the larger world. Edna’s interest validated the magnitude of the grandmother’s love and loss.

It’s Edna’s mission that we have in mind when we profile a victim. It’s a way to say the person was important, to us at The News Tribune and to the South Sound community.

NEW REPORTERS FOR SEAHAWKS, SONICS

We’ve chosen Frank Hughes, our Sonics reporter, to cover the Seahawks, and Eric Williams, our high schools sports coordinator, to cover the Sonics.

These moves result from the departure of Mike Sando, who’s covered the Seahawks for nearly a decade. He’s going to work for ESPN.com, to cover the NFL.

A bit about Frank: He worked at The Washington Post from 1989 to 1994, covering preps, colleges and pros. He moved to The Washington Times in 1994 and covered the Washington Bullets (now Wizards) until joining The News Tribune in 1997 as our Sonics beat reporter.

In addition to the work he does for us, Frank is a frequent guest and fill-in host on KJR. He also is a contributor to ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine. He worked with former Sonic Slick Watts on “Slick Watts’ Tales from the Seattle SuperSonics,” a book released in 2005.

Here’s what colleague and columnist Dave Boling said about Frank on our Sea-hawks Insider blog: “Anybody who reads the TNT knows that Frank is a pedigreed newshound. He’s generally way out front on Sonics happenings and has been deft with his analysis of where things are headed and why.

“Just as Mike Sando excelled in different ways when taking over for John Clayton, I’m sure Frank will do the same stepping in for Mike. I’ve been around long enough to have worked with all three. I respect them all as newsmen and friends. This beat will be in very good hands.”

Eric is a Tacoma native and a graduate of Mount Tahoma High School and the University of Puget Sound. Before coming to The News Tribune last year, he worked four years as a news reporter and sports reporter at the Kitsap Sun in Bremerton. Before that he worked at The News Tribune and the King County Journal.

“Obviously, Eric inherits the beat at a crucial time in the history of the team,” said sports editor Dale Phelps. “There’s a new general manager. A new coach. Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis are gone. Kevin Durant and Jeff Green are here. The arena situation is up in the air. There’s the possibility the team will leave.

“We’re looking for Eric to build on the solid foundation of Sonics reporting Frank has done through the years, both online and in print.”

Dave Zeeck: 253-597-8434

david.zeeck@thenewstribune.com

Blog: blogs.thenewstribune.com/editors

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