Monday, September 21, 2009

Reporting Deaths and Tree Mayhem

OK, now I'm getting a little confused. Some would say that's kind of perpetual state for me...


Last week a Costa Mesa resident identified as Kenneth Joseph Leake, age 75, was arrested at his Eastside home for apparently attempting
to kill his wife of 50 years, Doris. According to published reports Leake shot his wife in the head anywhere from one to five times, depending on which report you choose to believe. Leake is being held on $1 million bail and will be arraigned on October 16th in Harbor Justice Center.

This, of course, is a terrible tragedy. It's hard to imagine what prompts a man to attempt to murder his wife of a half century so violently. It's amazing that she has survived this attack.

Here's my problem with this story. It's the way it has been portrayed by various media outlets.


The Daily Pilot was the first to break this story. You can read their updated story HERE. In the story they identify Mr. Leake and his wife, Doris and describe the shooting, indicating that she was shot in the head three times. The Orange Coun
ty Register ran a close second, HERE, and said Mrs. Leake was shot once. Today the Newport-Mesa Daily Voice presented a more detailed account of this event, including the fact that Mr. Leake shot his victim not once, but five times - four to the head and one in the wrist. In that story, HERE, they identified the victim not as Mrs. Doris Leake, but as Jane Doe - after two other media outlets had already identified her by name.


Now, I certainly don't pretend to be a newsman - not even close. I'm just a guy who writes whatever dribbles out of his head on a given day, but tries to be sure it's founded in facts. All of those outfits are staffed by very experienced reporters and editors and yet the stories told are very different. I mean, how many times was the victim shot? Where? Why? And why, for goodness sake, did the Daily Voice not identify the victim as the shooters wife by her name when their headline clearly states that he shot his wife of 50 years?


We had another similar event last week, too, in which Newport Beach socialite Debbie Simon died in her Harbor Island mansion. In this case, the Daily Voice broke the story and did a nice job of explaining who she was, described the good works she had done since arriving from New Jersey a few years ago. But, they didn't mention that she took her own life.


Joe Serna wrote a good story on this event, too, in which he very discretely mentioned that Simon had taken her life. However, Editor Brady Rhoades subsequently blogged about this death and mentioned that Simon had hanged herself. Rhoades followed that up with a column last Friday's print edition in which he
reaffirmed her death by hanging.


The question on this one is, "What determines when the complete facts of a story are told?" Personally, I think the fact that Simon took her own life is relevant to the story - the Daily Voice apparently did not. Considering the fact that she was a highly visible socialite who, from all reports, spent her wealth freely on many good causes in the area and was still in the midst of a very sticky divorce after something like six or seven years makes the fact that she died by hanging an important element of the story.


I don't know - maybe I've watched a hundred too many episodes of the CSI series and The Sopranos, but this kind of curious reporting just bothers me. I do know that I don't trust any single source if information any more - on almost any subject - for the very reasons illustrated above.


And, to end this post on an even more sour note, how in the world do we explain the recent vandalism in Fairview and Canyon parks in which someone, or a group of someones, chopped a bunch of trees in half? You can read Candace Baker's story in the Daily Pilot HERE. Certainly, these crimes do not compare to the deaths mentioned above, but what kind of a strange, demented person attacks a specific species of tree in two different municipal parks for no apparent reason? We're living in strange times, my friends.

(All photos used in this entry courtesy of the Daily Pilot)

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Anonymous Brock said...

I agree our media outlets could be doing a better job. Normally I’d consider your blog one of the bad ones. Some of your conclusions and racial rants are a bit out there. Like the picture you posted of a mangled hand in an attempt to rally people against fireworks in Costa Mesa. Or the way you talk about Seniors at our Senior Center as complainers. By contrast this post was pretty informative. Hopefully this is a new trend.

Regarding trees being vandalized in the Canyon Park area. This may or may not be related but I called the CMPD about 2 trees being cut down in Canyon Park a few months back. My wife saw a man in the act of cutting one tree down and I saw and identified the person removing pieces for firewood. This guy is an off and on vagrant in our neighborhood. While he was staying at a problematic house in our neighborhood he was also dealing drugs. CMPD is aware of all this.

9/22/2009 08:07:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Brock, thanks for your participation again. Regarding the seniors, as in every group there will be some who gripe. EVERY incident has been investigated and found to be without merit.

I hope you've been in contact with the CMPD again recently about the guy you mentioned. Assuming someone there will remember an unrelated incident may be optimistic. Give them a call...

9/22/2009 09:05:00 AM  

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