I’m truly disappointed, but sadly not one bit surprised, by both the print and broadcast media’s shameful coverage of autopsy findings (not public record, by the way) on firefighters Paul Cahill, 55, and Warren Payne, 53. The two men were killed fighting a fast moving restaurant fire in West Roxbury on August 29, 2007.
What has been done to these two men — to their reputations, to their wives and children and families, to everyone who knew and cared about them — goes beyond despicable to utterly reprehensible. That personal information print and broadcast reporters so rabidly fought for, delivered by a source who gets the luxury of remaining unnamed, was not ours to know. It was no one’s business… a private matter that changed nothing. The public had no right to this. The media had no right to this.
Worse yet, members of the media don’t even have the guts to call this pursuit what it is, the obscenity of morbid curiosity and a desperate scramble for an exclusive. Right and wrong, if they enter into it at all, are quickly silenced by the desire for the hot story. Instead reporters and broadcasters crow about the First Amendment and the public’s “right to know” as if this gives you a pass on exercising a bit of conscience or decency or simple respect for the dead.
Tell me, what right does the media have to publicize the personal medical information of two men who are private citizens, who died protecting us? How many of the media could stand up to that kind of scrutiny? It doesn’t seem to matter to anyone that the details so gleefully reported do nothing but bring needless pain and embarrassment to families and friends already grieving. The fire that took Paul and Warren’s lives did not burn because of what they had, or did not have, in their systems.
What the media learned and were only too anxious to report changes nothing. These brave men died fighting a fire… a noble sacrifice that deserves respect and reverence. As far as I know, the First Amendment doesn’t give the media the right to smear the reputations, to demean the worthy sacrifice of men who were brave enough to risk their lives every day.
Men who aren’t here to defend themselves.
Of course I wouldn’t expect ambitious, striving media types to give this one bit of consideration… scruples are inconvenient companions after all. I can only hope some viewers, maybe a few readers, start to see the media as the souless, sanctimonious, self-righteous jackals they seem so often to be.
My heart and best wishes go out to both the Payne and Cahill families. I’m truly sorry for your loss. And I’m profoundly sorry that someone you love got in the way of the never-ending, rabid pursuit of breaking news.