Sunday, December 14, 2008

Eye of the storm

It is hard to fathom the events of the past two weeks in Tracy. The saga of Kyle R. has reached international status as newspapers, television stations and media outlets follow the story. And in this whirlwind tale of torture, abuse and terror I find myself in the center of this media storm.

I must have driven by the house at 630 Tennis Lane a hundred times. It is an ordinary looking house by any account. But with news of the alleged abuse the street took a on a different look. Television crews with their live trucks line the curbs. An ordinary street turned into a crime scene and international center of news. It is a little unnerving.

As the story unfolded the media interest grew and intensified. I would make trips to the street to shoot side by side with television crews. Driving down Tracy Boulevard to other assignments I would see the antenna masts of a half dozen camera crews parked along the street. Neighbors complained about the commotion and the unwanted attention.

Tracy was now the center of a story that was reaching readers across the nation and drawing interest abroad. With the growing interest in the plight of Kyle R. my assignments were growing. I was covering the Kyne-Kimball awards and received a call to break away and cover detectives removing more evidence from the house. The story seemed to dominate the newspaper coverage and most of our thoughts of work. It was the topic of most everyone I met on assignment. The story was like a fire that reached firestorm status. It fueled itself as it spread and grew. It tried to dominate every moment at work.

I have covered events that have reached national importance. The tire fire that burned for years south or town and the Jones Tract floods were both news events that drew dozens of reporters and wound up newspapers and televisions across the country. The visit of presidential candidate John McCain was nothing less that a media frenzy so I have seen my fair of crowds. The court appearances of the four suspects in the abuse case have been crowded to say the least.

In two weeks I made three trips to the Stockton courthouse to photograph the arraignments of the four alleged abusers. Photographers and reporters filled four rows on either side of the courtroom for the first appearance. The last arraignment we had settled down to only four rows of cameras. It is a brief glimpse as they brought in and we shoot as many pictures as fast as we can. There is no talking when the court session begins and all you can hear from the rows of media is the sound of camera shutters firing. It is unnerving to stand so close to someone accused of such a heinous crime.

The story has dimmed in the public eye, the next court appearance for the accused isn’t until January and the coverage has entered a time where we are catching our breath and preparing for the next wave. Covering the events so far has been hard with such a horrible tale to tale and it has taken a toll on us in the newsroom that have covered it closely to those in the community that have followed the story closely. We are in the calm before the next chapter of this storm strikes Tracy