Tuesday, September 19, 2006

More on Melinda: Blogs and Perceptions

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I must say, I am having a hard time gauging my emotions on this issue. I am very taken with this story as of late, as I actively scour the internet on my free time for more information. Bear with me as I sort out my feelings and figure out why I am so personally hurt by this situation.

To start, I found a YouTube clip (courtesy of Tampa Pirate) of an MSNBC Panel Discussion that puts the issue into perspective. If you watch the clip, you can take a wild guess how I feel about Steve Adubato's perspective (my flippin' hero). In it, Steve brings up a salient point, when asked if Nancy Grace "should have run the interview [with Melinda] after Grace knew this young mother had killed herself":

"You mean, run it because it's the right thing to do for the public to see, or run it because, 'Boy, isn't this great for ratings?' ...Nancy Grace apparently has no line that she will not go over to get ratings. It's disgraceful."

The Media's involvement in this situation is truly abhorrent, with it continually escalating this horror into a ratings battle as more and more personal information is broadcasted on national TV, with subsequent analysis and commentary, for the purpose of polarizing the public and having viewers fabricate their own suppositions and stories for evidence of why Melinda is guilty or innocent. My criticism, then, should also extend to any form of media that has encouraged viewers to 'take a stand on the issue,' whatever that means. I'm talking about blogs.

One of the main sources of news and commentary for many, I've found several blogs covering this story that have pushed for readers to form opinions about the state Melinda was in, about what Melinda was really saying with her MySpace posts (and this might be a generation-gap-thing, but for chrissakes, it's MYSPACE, not a formal journal, so let's stop trying to find specific meaning in her posts), and to forge assertions of Melinda's guilty intentions. I recently had a discussion-- albeit strained at times on my end, marked by the state I am in-- on a blog about this issue, and so I will reproduce my comments here. To put it into perspective, what really got me was the poll that asked if readers thought Melinda Duckett was "absolutely guilty" or "definitely not guilty", and then the subsequent post that offered some of the author's speculation on the events that occurred:

Me: How about we all stop assuming what happened to Trenton and let the authorities carry out their investigation? The way you folks treat your feelings and assumptions as factual evidence is disgusting.

You are speculating on her innocence or guilt based on value judgments, and you are asking others to do the same thing, an example being with your inane poll entitled “Is Melinda Duckett Guilty in her Son’s Disappearance?”

These tactics infringe on the privacy of the family, impugn individuals with no evidence other than your thoughts and feelings, and facilitate the notion that we as outsiders should also be actively making value judgments on the issue, and it is truly despicable.

There is a difference between informing and actively polarizing your readership.

I admit, slightly vitriolic.

The responses I got included that many people want to share their opinions about this story, and so it was just a forum to continue doing so. Also, that there were no privacy issues because all of this information is already being made available online. I responded:

Me: I appreciate your responses, thanks to both of you.

The fact that people want to share their opinions and make these value judgments on innocence or guilt does not imply you are doing the right thing by egging them on, such as by polling your readership, asking if people think Melinda is “absolutely guilty” or “definitely not” guilty. How can anyone come to that conclusion with the actual evidence we have?

As I’ve written before, the Media is ripping open the lives of this family for everyone to see, with detailed commentary on divorce papers, hobbies, mental illnesses, including accusations and assumptions of Melinda’s guilt, which should be roles relegated to unbiased law enforcement agencies, not polarizing talk shows. You are facilitating these intentions, by giving links to where people can find more (often personal) information and by creating an online environment that asks folks to gossip and make their assumptions heard in a public setting. It matters not that this information was already on the internet to begin with; you are further disseminating this material with the underlying intention of having folks speculate on it and about what happened. I dislike the Media for doing it, and I certainly feel the same way about blogs that do it as well.

If the focus should be only on Trenton right now, make it so. Change your poll, control the urge to surmise what happened, and encourage readers to do the same. Do your part in protecting this family’s privacy and Melinda’s character and integrity. Noting every painful thing that has happened to them, it’s the very least we can do.
The poll was taken down. A step in the right direction.

And as I've said before, the fact that I'm again bringing this story up and offering sources for more information in effect forwards some of the same goals that I despise. However, the key difference is intention.

I am promoting this information to prove the point that there is absolutely no reason anyone should have Melinda's guilt or innocence made up in anyone's mind. No reason at all. Let's fight the push by media pundits to polarize this story, and recognize that the difficulties in Melinda's life were tremendous, as are the tensions and grief of the ones who recently said goodbye to a mother and are still searching for a son.

It's the least we can do for this broken family.

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