Reporting on Grief
Wednesday I was sent out to cover the announcement of a reward for any information leading to an arrest in the hit-and-run death of Adrianna Bachan. The news was astonishing because it wasn't your average reward. As of Wednesday, the reward money totalled $135,000, coming from USC, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Los Angeles City Council (an anonymous donor later added an extra $100,000).
Stories dealing with death are never easy to cover, but it really helps when the people you want to hear from are willing to talk. It was also helpful that my story took place a few days after the accident. I think people involved were a little more willing to talk because they were used to news cameras being around. This story is certainly tragic, but it is exactly why the media exists...to be an informant to the public.
About a year ago, I covered the death of another USC student due to a drug overdose, the day it happend while medical examiners and police were still in the dorm room. Students in the dorm were not very receptive. I got yelled at and basically chased out of the dorm, because they didn't think I should be there. When they asked why I would do such a horrible thing, I explained to them (where the words came from, I'm still not sure) that he was a member of the Trojan family and that people on campus have a right to know, especially if they knew the student. I said I wasn't there to exploit their grief in losing their friend, but only to find out more about their friend...what they wanted people to remember. After explaining myself, those students were a lot more willing to speak to me.
Bachan's death is obviously very different, in that her family and friends were seeking justice and wanted the person who had viciously driven off in the middle of the night found. They were willing to speak to the media because they needed a vehicle to inform the public and hopefully get a lead.
On Friday it was announced that an arrest had been made in the Bachan case and they had an exact vehicle and second suspect description. Although the tipster remains anonymous, it is very possible the reason they came forward or even knew what to look for was because of the media.