Thursday, November 29, 2007

What Annoys Me Today

Mostly because nothing seems to light my writing fire today, I have dawdled over various parts of my daily chores, such as checking my e-mail. The ads I have to go through first tell me what is going on in "Entertainment" and "News of the Day" and I decided to look at what it is that should entertain me.

It's news about the private lives of celebrities. Many of these are about babies being born to some celebrity or another, and all the headlines are of the form where "x" welcomes "baby girl/boy/multiples". Wouldn't it be more entertaining to read that "x" was furious and wanted to cancel the baby order? Or is there a special welcome ritual that I've missed about the arrival of babies?

Yes, I know that what I wrote above is curmudgeonly, and that it's difficult to think of an interesting way to say that the new parents are delighted to finally hold the baby. The annoyance I feel is much more severe when the news are about how someone reacts to horrible events. You know, the kind of thing where someone is asked how they feel about having their whole family killed in a fire or lost in an earthquake. It seems wrong to even ask such question, and the answers have very little news value. Of course the survivor is devastated. To ask her or him to expand on that feeling is voyeurism of the nastiest kind.

Then there is this story about a man who killed his ex-wife and his children. The story is written in an odd way, almost as if family violence is some sort of a virus that just happens:

The couple, who divorced in 2005, had a history of domestic violence, police said.

The family lived in Frederick County for about five years, with Brockdorff moving out in 2005 and Pumphrey leaving this year, neighbors said.

Brockdorff was a self-employed electrician who had coached T-ball, and Pumphrey was a flight attendant, said Mullen, who lives two houses away. The three Brockdorff children were close friends with Mullen's.

The couple's relationship was stormy, and police were often called to their large home to help settle their disputes, Mullen said.

In fall 2005, Pumphrey asked Brockdorff to move out, and he moved to nearby Urbana. But he continued to visit Pumphrey and harass her, Mullen said. Pumphrey got a restraining order and even suspected that her phone had been tapped.

"She was very scared," Mullen said. "She wanted to protect her kids and herself."

Perhaps the ex-wife was also violent, but the story gives no evidence of that. Instead, it is the "couple" who somehow "has a history" of domestic violence. And all this in a story which begins by telling how the ex-husband killed the rest of the family. I can't imagine similar writing applied to other kinds of murders.