Role of Journalists in Deciding “The Story”

On July 29th, my husband and I made a unified decision to share Ben's story with others and to speak out to raise awareness about the grave dangers of child heatstroke in cars and bolster the intellectual discussion around ways these risks can be mitigated in the future, whether through public awareness campaigns, legislation, funding for device research and development, etc. We of course knew this may ignite some new discussion about the "Ridgefield events" -- what has happened, what will - and we were willing to live with it to help shed light on a bigger issue to society, for what we think is right -- telling Ben's story and raising awareness, working with government officials to make things happen and find solutions.

Lying in bed last night, I began realizing what an integral role the press has in deciding what "the story" will be. The truth is that there is a bigger picture out there - an ongoing, political and intellectual debate about the history of these efforts to elicit change and how to go about it in the future - and I would hope that citizens would be just as interested in that as the local, sensationalized story. It saddens me that local media outlets are still stuck on "Ridgefield details" - is that story divisive (do we really need that type of thing now - it still hurts my heart)? Does it stir the pot enough to sell papers or website clicks? Maybe. But, I ask that we move beyond the sensationalization of the events of July 7th to deal with the real issues at hand - that will continue to affect hundreds of more children in the future if nothing is done. Did I forgive Kyle? Yes. Was it a horrible, traumatic day? Yes. We will always grieve that day...but we need to move forward to the bigger discussion right now. No discussion of his actions that day - its not about that. And, we have a working relationship with all local and state officials involved - and I will continue to give deference and respect to the privacy of the processes they are going through right now. I refuse to discuss the big sensationalization of the day - charges or statistics? That's not the point. This isn't about that - if it were, we surely would have remained quiet and holed up in our house.

In an interview yesterday, I talked ad nauseam about why we were speaking and pubic awareness: I got one sentence at the end - 

"Since that time, Rogers-Seitz has kept her silence to maintain a point of privacy during the mourning period, but she chose to speak Tuesday because Thursday is National Heat Stroke Prevention Day."

I've maintained my silence because for three weeks my mind couldn't form words for these events or our emotions but also to respect the state processes going on at this time. The title "Mother Mourns Child, Defends Husband." I am not discussing my husband's ongoing state issues in the media, nor did I. If by saying I love him and forgive him and that we are a healthy family unit moving forward and that he is a wonderful father - then I guess I did defend him. But, I did not defend or discuss any events of July 7th related to him, nor will this time. One day, but we respect all parties involved right now. My grieving as a mother - what that is like - yes, this can reach others to make them see how quickly the unimaginable happens and why they should care about this issue - but nothing else. Not now.

Where is mention of the Petition or letters from our state Senators asking NHTSA to enhance their pubic awareness campaign, or comments from experts about how to solve this problem? Absent.

I look forward to speaking to sophisticated media outlets for National Heatstroke Prevention Day that realize what the true story is -- an intellectual and political discussion around ways to alleviate the grave public policy concern that the nation is facing right now.

The rest, that's for later. I challenge the media to understand what "the story" really is this week. People's lives and emotions are still involved now -- not that much time has passed since July 7th. Do comments that journalists still think its appropriate to put in the paper hurt - yes, they sure do. But, we have a goal...and we are marching forward. Together.