Monday, February 24, 2003

The terrible aftermath. Blute & Ozone had me on for a few minutes this morning on WRKO Radio (AM 680) to talk about the media's treatment of one of their own: Jeff Derderian, co-owner (with his brother) of the Station nightclub in West Warwick, the scene of last week's horrific, deadly fire. The question: have the media gone too easy on Derderian because he's a reporter for WPRI-TV (Channel 12) in Providence and a former reporter for WHDH-TV (Channel 7) in Boston?

I don't know. Derderian may have initially gotten more benefit of the doubt than someone else might have, but it strikes me that it's not going to matter much. His claims that the club had never given permission to Great White to set off fireworks on stage are now in serious doubt, and Rhode Island officials are going to push this until they get some answers.

Maybe Derderian wasn't given the full media treatment -- camera crews haven't staked out his house, and he hasn't been chased down the street by rampaging TV reporters. But it's not going to matter in the end. This is a terrible story, and it's not going to come out well for Derderian, regardless of how questions involving criminal and civil liability are ultimately resolved.

The Providence Journal has done some interesting stuff online to expand its coverage of the tragedy, including a fire-related weblog, photo slide shows, and links to additional information. (Free registration required.)

I've seen several well-executed stories on the long road ahead for survivors who've been seriously burned. Stephen Smith's piece in yesterday's Globe on firefighter Raymond McNamara is worthwhile. Here are two other truly exceptional pieces:

  • The 2001 Pulitzer Prize for feature photography was awarded to Matt Rainey of the Newark Star-Ledger for his photos of two college students who were badly burned in a dorm fire. The Pulitzer website has a portfolio of Rainey's work.
  • The Austin American-Statesman website has an in-depth report on Jacqui Saburido, a young woman whose face was virtually burned off in a terrible car accident several years ago. Written by David Hafetz and photographed by Rodolfo Gonzalez, this is very difficult to look at. But it's not sensationalistic in the least -- rather, it's simply the heartbreaking truth.

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