Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Why I hate journalism and a meandering rant about the Cantu Case

We haven't really covered much of the Sandra Cantu case here. Mostly because after about day 3 we stopped following it regularly because there was really only a handful of ways it could have ended, one of them being "found in a suitcase in an irrigation ditch". And, call me crazy, I don't want to hear/read about how a little girl was brutally raped and murdered. That's not exciting journalism for us.

We also ignored it partially because it was quite possibly the slowest developing story we've ever seen. It was frustrating to track because Tracy PD was keeping its mouth shut on fucking everything. Which resulted in multiple articles about the search continuing with no real new information aside from who's car got towed mixed in with trailer park gossip. No really, here's a list of the stories from when Cantu went missing until her body was found (roughly a week and a half):

Cantu disappears
We're searching!
Hey, did you guys do it? No? But you kissed her! On the lips! Still no? Ok, we'll keep looking.
Hey you! Let us look! Oh, still nothing. Well, we're still taking you in!
Yeah, so, we still got nothing.
But we're narrowing things down! (Note: this was 5 days before some farm workers narrowed it down for them)
We're doing a good job! Swear! But yeah, still nothing.
See! We found this t-shirt! Sure it's not Sandra's we totally wasted a day on this but it's something. Ok fine, we got nothing.
We got a helicopter! Oh, and still nothing.
Hey look! Another house searched! And another day of jack shit to report!
So still nothing, but be distracted by this creepy video of the last images of a probably dead girl in what was probably her last happy moments!
Oh my! The poor community! Oh, and still fucking nothing!
No really, poor Tracy!
Man, such a quiet search. Almost makes you think about packing it in and calling it a day.
Oh shit! They found something! Quit stalling and tellll ussssss.
OMG it was her! Quick, shoot a video of the mom's darkest hour!

That was fucking grating wasn't it? Nearly 2 weeks of bullshit. Half of those stories are "Police found jack shit". We're all for covering the search but at what point does rehashing the same story about Tracy PD not finding anything become useless? They could have skipped probably half those stories.

But Tracy PD was dicks and kept leading people on. They told us they had a handful of credible tips, they postponed press conferences with no explanation, and all of it was fucking bullshit because when it was all said and done they still had to rely on a group of farm workers who stumbled upon a suitcase in an irrigation ditch. All that shit about being close was a fucking lie. You hear about them searching the pastor's house before they found Melissa Huckaby's suitcase? I sure as hell didn't.

Of course, the Record sent a reporter out to Tracy pretty much every day for a week and a half so they had to get something back. Most of the time that reporter got nothing so he ended up having to rehash details we already knew. Which is fine once or twice. But not a week and a half of that shit.

And that's all before we got into the search for her killer and Huckaby's arrest/arraignment. The search for Sandra's killer went much more smoothly than the search for her body. Even if the avalanche of online videos increased the already borderline overkill media coverage to "contemplating suicide so I can stop hearing about this God damn story" levels.

Of course, once Huckaby was arrested, this turns into a court case so we get a whole new batch of angles to make your brain melt! Which resulted in my favorite series of stories in this entire shitstorm. The Record got ahold of deputy District Attorney Thomas Testa and found out he was going to be the prosecutor. Which would be a fine story if the other deputy DA wasn't telling the AP about the addition of rape/molestation charges! The resulting combination of those two stories was a fairly entertaining mashup (So yeah, rape and stuff. But hey look! A guy we spent half a day interviewing!)

And then there's the court hearing in which, well, NOTHING HAPPENED. They read off the charges that the DA already tipped everybody off on and everybody stood around trying to get video of some woman who's clearly at her wit's end crying. It was riveting stuff.

The saddest part (besides, you know, the whole little girl getting killed and raped thing), is that people are eating this bullshit up. Countless numbers of people who know I'm kind of a news junkie kept asking me if I saw the story about the court appearance I'm just sitting there thinking (and this is the part where, if you don't already hate me, you will afterwards) WHAT'S THE BIG FUCKING DEAL!? Yes, a girl died. Yes, it's sad. Yes, it happened close to home. But nothing's fucking changed. I see mom's reading these stories with a worried look on their face and I just want to grab them and shout "Nothing is different! Your kid was in just as much danger a month ago as they are now!" Maybe I'm just a sick human being who doesn't really feel a connection to people I've never met and never will meet, or maybe I just recognize media scare tactics

But scare tactics work. Now we can have countless News10 stories about how to keep your kid safe from the dangers of the world and everybody can get some sort of closure even though most people will forget about this case after the first episode of Nancy Grace after the gag order is in place. And in the end, what do we get? A few extra papers sold (a claim I hate making, but it fits here). A little rattled that something like that could happen in a little town like Tracy even though something like this always could have happened in Tracy (and still can in the future). Plus, we get to call some woman we don't know a psycho with mental problems to make ourselves feel better about the world in general. And, as a bonus, we get a false sense of security because now we're aware and informed about how to protect our kids thanks to the overcoverage by news outlets. Which is kind of ironic because a false sense of security is how this whole thing started.

God I hate journalism.

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