Where Human Decency Is Ignored

8 03 2008

I don’t know why I do these things to myself.

I don’t really go to Thaddeus Matthews Blog other than when he’s being written up by the Commercial Appeal or there is some reason when I see a headline on a post of his in an aggregator that gets my attention.

Last night, I saw on Knoxville Talks where Katie Allison Granju wrote this:

Shame on you, Thaddeus Matthews.


I’m all for muckraking, truth-telling and aggressive reporting – on blogs and in the traditional press – but publishing these apparently illegally obtained photos of a murdered woman serves no purpose but your own need for attention

Me being me wondered “What the hell?”

This is going to be long, so there’s more after the jump.

So I read the story and the comments over at the Commercial Appeal and there isn’t any doubt that a heinous crime has been committed. But I’m still curious, so I google TM’s blog and that’s when I saw the pictures that he took in a funeral home. I’ll be honest, I knew at that point from Katie’s post that those pictures were there.

I won’t link to them. You can do what you want.

Here’s the things that I noticed at both places. There are roughly the same amount of comments at Matthews’ blog and at the CA. I sort of got clinical about this. I used to work with battered women and I’ve seen dead people before so forgive me if I move into a certain mindset. When you work in news, you see some horrible stuff as well. And people are going both ways with their thoughts about it. Most of the comments at TM’s blog were anonymous, some supporting his decision to run the photos. But, you know what, BIG DEAL. Those folks are not Shindri Roberson’s family who are horrified. They are burying their loved one who died terribly. Imagine if you had just lost a loved one in a violent murder and then you see someone, without your permission, took pictures of that person. How would you feel?

Now this story from last night from WREG-TV reports this:

Police have been slow with details about the Lester Street murders.

For days family members couldn’t even see their loved ones bodies.

So when graphic pictures of murder victim Shindri Roberson’s dead body showed up on an internet website it sent shockwaves, especially to her family.

“My brother pulled it up. He said it’s her. She looked like she was scared and frightened. He said I need to go look at it. I said I don’t want to see it.” says Verlee Jones, Roberson’s aunt.

The pictures appeared on blogger Thaddeus Matthews website.

Matthews stands by his decision saying the city needs a plan to prevent other killings.

Roberson’s family says no one had their authority to take pictures.

Let me say this: What Matthews did in disrespecting the family was absolutely the most self-serving thing I’ve seen in a long time. Putting pictures of this girl up on his blog was irresponsible. He didn’t care about her family. He only cared about being, in what he calls himself on his own blog “The South’s Greatest Blogger.” (His words, not mine.) He also has a funeral home ad on his page. I couldn’t help but wonder why that was up there although this is a different funeral home where Roberson was at. (The funeral home in question said they had no knowledge about Matthews taking the pictures, incidentally.)

With that said, this story from the Memphis Flyer from just a couple of weeks ago that I remembered reading this from last month.

Shortly after 18-year-old Dexter Cox was arrested in the homicide case of Memphis Police Lieutenant Edward Vidulich, blogger Thaddeus Matthews released Cox’s leaked police statement on his website.

Matthews is refusing to release the name of the person who leaked the documents, and Memphis Police director Larry Godwin has launched an investigation. The issue has raised a debate as to whether or not Matthews should be protected by the state’s shield law, which protects journalists from revealing their sources.

First of all, KAG is absolutely, positively right. There was no reason to go into a funeral home and take pictures that have devastated a family (illegally it seems.) Second of all, Matthews would be terminated if he had done this for a media outlet but then again, a media outlet wouldn’t have done this (or at least I don’t think they would have.) I’m with her, I like a good aggressive story too but I also believe in human decency and respect for Roberson’s family.

And Matthews, before this incident, was written up (also in the Commercial Appeal) for testing the shield laws in regards to the second story I referenced.

Does he deserve the shield laws applied to journalists when he does something like this?

But lets not muddy the waters here; the issues is not about journalists versus bloggers. It’s about decency. He could have spotlighted this story without putting graphic pictures of a dead girl on his blog. He could have still focused on this horrible murder, but instead he put up pictures of Shindri Roberson.

This girl that was loved by her family, and her family was appalled by Matthews’ photos. They had to see this. He had no regard for how they would feel.

If you do go over to his blog, he says he offers no apologies about what he’s done.

And I agree with Silence who summed it up in two words.

I’m speechless too.

Kleinheider also has a write up about this as well as does Autoegocrat at the Memphis Flyer.

So, yeah, Thaddeus, you got a ton of attention for this and isn’t that what you wanted?

But not for the reasons you think.

Update: Vibinc adds his voice to the blogger who is not to be named and the CA reports this morning more details. I didn’t know Matthews had done this before but according to the CA report, he has.



5 responses

8 03 2008
Aunt B.

You know, I can easily imagine circumstances under which taking and posting photos of a dead person would be appropriate for a blogger. Say that a person was shot and the police were saying that the person was stabbed and that they’d arrested a suspect who was found with a knife. Posting photos that showed definitively that the police were lying about the cause of death would be, to me, acceptable for a journalist–blogger or regular.

Or, if it were a case like Emmitt Till, where the family was demanding that the rest of the country look at that boy in the face and see what grown white men had done to him, then, yes, it would be appropriate for those photos to come out.

But is there anyone who knows about this story who doesn’t know that this poor woman was brutally murdered? And did he even attempt to get the permission of the family?

No. In both cases, clearly no.

He’s doing this to be salacious and to build his own traffic on the backs of these people’s tragedies. It’s gross.

8 03 2008

It is gross.
You make a good point that there are times that people do things outside the box, but in this case, Matthews’ ego and arrogance were more important to him. The media has been covering this. There is some indication (pretty big one) that he did this without permission and the TN Funeral Homes board (not the name but the regulating committee) is investigating the Ford Funeral home in question about this. They say there was not permission given (however, it’s not to say that someone might have helped Matthews as was in another CA story I saw this morning.)
And, for people not in the media, this hurts bloggers as a whole as well.
I just would hate to see, let’s say Homer, in pictures on a website put up without my permission.
Gross is the best word for this.

9 03 2008
I’m Not Even Going to Say Your Name « Tiny Cat Pants

[…] As I said over at Newscoma’s site, there are legitimate reasons for you to do what you did.  If you thought the police were lying about the cause of her death, you could have posted photos that proved that.  Or, as in the case of Emmitt Till, if her family had come to you and said, “We want the world to see what happened to our loved one,” you would have had the right to post those photoes. […]

9 03 2008
Volunteer Voters » A Bit Of Post-Mortem On The Post-Mortem

[…] Newscoma: Matthews would be terminated if he had done this for a media outlet but then again, a media outlet wouldn’t have done this (or at least I don’t think they would have.) I’m with her, I like a good aggressive story too but I also believe in human decency and respect for Roberson’s family. […]

10 03 2008
Compassion Requires No Special Training « DeMarCaTionVille

[…] the post by Michael Silence: Blogger’s postmortem photos draw ire. Turns out, Kleinheider, Newcoma and Katie Alison Granju were discussing the issue […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: