The strange case of Greg Etue
I got out of the daily news reporting game, I'll admit, because I didn't have the stomach to cover the many sad stories that came across my desk.
I remember clearly once when I had to call an RCMP sergeant after his young son blew his head off with the officer's service revolver.
"Please," he pleaded. "I really can't talk right now."
"It was your gun, is that correct?"
He slammed down the receiver.
I was ashamed of myself.
People have a right to some privacy in difficult times like that.
I also used to hate having to go to the door of a dead child's home and jostle the competition for a picture. Really, it felt more like ghoulism than journalism.
That said, I still believe that these stories must be told in an honest and forthright fashion with all the facts and none of the flourish and emotion that is all the rage in reporting these days.
Over the past two years, we, in this community, have been treated to a lot of oversharing on such stories as the suicide of Jamie Hubley and Darren Richardson, two wonderful kids who took their own lives and who have now become martyrs to the cause of suicide prevention.
I think it's admirable what the families are doing, raising awareness and hoping to prevent more children from taking such terrible actions.
But sometimes the media takes it too far.
Newspapers never used to cover suicides. It was policy.
Now, it seems, news organizations can't get enough of the stuff.
Why not? Sad tales of this kind are revenue-makers. Ask Rupert Murdoch.
So I found the recent coverage of the death Greg Etue, husband of CTV news anchor Carole Anne Meehan to be curiously against the modern journalistic grain.
All signs lead to suicide. All reports hint at it.
But it's as if her family has been given a pass by the media and the police because she's a media personality. Even the police have kept virtually dumb on the subject. The final news release simply said Mr. Greg Etue had been "located". Someone who didn't know the story would think he'd been returned safely home, which was not the case.
His death was not reported in the police press release.
I have never in my long journalistic life seen a police report like that. Usually, it will say something like this: "Mr. Etue was found in his car, deceased. Cause of death pending an autopsy."
In turn, the news media would investigate further and report that he had died either of "natural causes" or "an apparent suicide".
I'm not saying that the media should be all over poor Carole Anne Meehan and her family; I'm not saying that at all. But the media has an obligation to report the facts in this case.
Ergo, Mr. Etue was found in his car on a side road near Killaloe after having been reported missing two weeks earlier. Sources say he apparently had taken his own life after suffering from a lengthy battle with multiple sclerosis and throat cancer.
If that is indeed what happened.
But as the Citizen's Kelly Egan suggested today, and I agree with him, the lack of information in this case leads to more speculation. It's got everybody in town talking.
In the public relations business, that means the story has "legs". It won't go away until people know what happened.
What troubles me, mostly, is that the media has chosen to handle this case with kid gloves simply because it involves one of their own.
That is wrong.
Every case like this should be treated the same, whether it involves the missing husband of a Vanier pizza parlour owner or the husband of a news reader.
We all feel very sorry for Carole Anne and her family. But she, more than anybody, knows that a story is a story.
And it should be reported like that.