Vultures and jackals

In the space of just a couple of days this week, I was called a "vulture" in the course of doing my job, and journalists covering the Newton shooting were referred to as "jackals" during a hearing at the state capitol.

Really? Are we out for blood and carrion, or are we performing an important public service?

On Tuesday, as I covered the major crimes cases in New London Superior Court, a public servant I know sat next to me, pointed to a murder defendant's name on the docket, and whispered, "Is he here?" I used my pen to point to the defendant in the front row.

The public servant then asked whether the man's family was in attendance, and again I used my pen, this time to point behind me, where his girlfriend sat. Perhaps this seemed rude, but to me it was the easiest and most unobtrusive response.

"Vultures!" the girlfriend hissed. "Vultures!"

The defendant, who has admitted to killing his wife, but says it was an accident, is out on a $1 million bond while his case is pending. Given the seriousness of the charge, it's appropriate, and in fact incumbent on me, as a court reporter, to note whether he shows up in court. And it's natural for somebody who does business in the court regularly to be curious.

The second name-calling incident came Thursday, as reported by The Hartford Courant in an article about a hearing on a bill to restrict access to death certificates of children under 18. The town clerk in Newtown was shaken up when reporters asked to see the death certificates of the Sandy Hook massacre, according to the story.

The clerk complained to state Rep. Mitch Bolinsky, R-Newtown, who raised the bill to restrict access to the death record.

According to the article, Bolinsky said he "felt the outrage, the pain of observing the jackals descend upon my town clerk's office at a time of great, great community loss."

Being in the business, I naturally want to know every detail of that case as it unfolds. I notice, too, that everyone I speak with, right down to my senior citizen mother, is following every development. We're all struggling to understand the unthinkable events of Dec. 14, 2012.

How are we, as a civil society, going to digest this and act thoughtfully in attempt to prevent it from ever happening again if we are not allowed the details? As uncomfortable as a reporter's job can be, we can't back down.


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