Will some disclosure bring public closure?
So the parents of Samantha Goodyear want to be left alone, now that they’ve got their daughter back.
However, this story is NOT fading quietly into the night.
There’s been an uproar on talk radio programs, and in the comments section at media web sites, from people who say they want – no, NEED – to know more.
Normally, the vast majority of people would back off in such an instance. But this time, it’s different. Most voices are insisting on getting just a bit more information on what exactly happened to Samantha Goodyear. They don’t want the whole story – just a brief explanation.
The intense public interest in this story was driven by Goodyear’s parents, especially the father. His raw emotional appeals for assistance in finding Samantha were gut-wrenching, and generated a strong reaction from the public, mobilizing many to help in any way they could.
His anguish stirred another reaction: fear. With another young woman already missing, it looked like a serial killer might be on the loose. Parents started worrying about their children, despite assurances from the Constabulary that the two cases were not connected.
Because of the parents’ open display of emotion, people became personally and emotionally invested in this story. The family’s heart-rending appeals made us care so much about Samantha’s fate. The mood was summed up yesterday by a caller to VOCM Open Line; a woman who said the following (and I am paraphrasing, from memory):
“The pain the parents were feeling hit me right in the heart. I cried when that father cried. Every day, I said a prayer for that family. And when she was found, I was so relieved. But now, I feel like we have a right to know what happened to her. The public needs closure on this.”
Those four words sum it up so well: the public needs closure. People were dragged along on this emotional roller coaster, but now they’re left hanging at the end.
Here are a few anonymous comments that make this point, from a recent story at cbc.ca/nl (and I did fix a lot of typos here):
I am glad she is home safe but I needed a little bit more information on what happened. Was she out on her own, did someone have her, etc. I don't need full details and have a 15-year-old daughter who was afraid to stay home by herself because of this story and she is asking what happened to her. I don't need full disclosure but if you were on media asking for help I think some sort of explanation is warranted.
And this bit of insight, from an anonymous healthcare worker:
I am glad she was found alive and is ok. However, I am a healthcare professional, and if her "mental crisis" or whatever is wrong with her was that severe she would have been admitted to a Mental Health Unit. I don't know of any medical condition that causes temporary disorientation, causes a person to vanish for 6 days, then voluntarily return to their home. If she were that sick, she would be in hospital. I am sure her parents had a reason to fear for her safety, but did not disclose a reason why to the media. I think the public do have a right to know what happened to her, because MANY people spent hours searching for her. Her parents made it seem as if someone had kidnapped her off the street. There is more to this story than meets the eye...
Some commenters defend the family’s right to close off communication. Here’s a sample:
While I can understand everyone's curiosity, this is NOT your favorite TV episode that got yanked off the air, this is real life and her family has a right to privacy and figure things out.
So what should the media do? The RNC can stop talking about the case if they like. That is their prerogative. However, they can’t prevent others from doing so. Legally, the media can keep asking questions if they like. The simple truth is, you cannot be sued for telling the truth, no matter how inconvenient that truth may be. And it is not a crime to report information, unless there is a court-ordered publication ban in place.
The question is, what should the media do? Keep digging for more? Or accede to the family’s wishes? I suspect this has been the subject of considerable debate in newsrooms across the province.
Really, it depends on the editor, or whomever is in charge of the newsroom. The reporters may voice their opinions on the matter, but what the boss says, goes. In this case, it looks like most newsrooms are respecting the family’s wishes.
If I was boss, I think I would keep asking questions.
What would you do?