Sunday, August 23, 2009
Tracy has had it fair share of time in the spotlight as the local and national media cover the multitude of tragedies that have befallen our town as of late. But I have been troubled by the media coverage of the most recent event, the murder of Cynthia Ramos. Or to be exact I have been troubled by the lack of it.
Now I am the first to admit that I could live without the media circus that set up tents in Tracy to cover the Sandra Cantu murder case. The wall-to-wall journalist scene pushing and shoving to get up front for interviews was at best annoying and at its worst painted a poor picture of journalists no better than vultures descending on the grieving remains of our town. It was sickening and try as I might I was a part of that show. Sometimes there is a need, the story must be told.
Now when the newsroom police scanner alerted to a 187 at the mobile home park at 2929 north Macarthur I knew what was in store. Our second murder of the year was sure to bring those same scenes. Police tape, confusion and the eventually hordes of media to cover the scene. Odd thing was it didn’t happen that way. Standing outside the police tape viewing the scene I was the only newspaper photographer. Times are tough, budgets are small and newsroom staffs dwindle on a daily basis but I expected to bump elbows with at least a few other reporters. Only one television station that had been working on a story in Lathrop showed up in the first few hours. Late in the evening one or two television crews made a live telecast for their evening news but for the most part I was alone.
That weekend the family held the first of three candlelight vigils to remember Ramos and we were told the media was welcome to attend. It is sad that I have so much practice covering vigils like this but I headed out in the early darkness and was expecting to join the crowd of reporters and photographers to see the family of the murder victim. No other newspaper or television station showed up, it was just me. I felt awkward and out of place with the lone camera, an intruder in their grief. This was a far cry from the media show of the Cantu vigils.
The suspects in the murder had been caught the same day of the killing and I headed out to the arraignment the following week. I arrived early to claim a my spot in the line of media that would be there to get their first look at the accused killer of Ramos. No one else came. Standing outside the courtroom was the Tracy Press reporter, dozens of Ramos’ family, friends and me. I was shocked.
We caught up with a television crew reporter later in the courthouse records office and I asked why they didn’t cover the arraignment. The answer was they tend to downplay murders like this. A 58-year-old woman is beaten and stabbed to death, I just could not figure how that could not be important. I asked another newspaper why they didn’t cover it and the answer was there too many murders for them to cover. Commonplace. Forgotten. It is sad.
We have covered the story as best we could; the second murder in Tracy is not a commonplace event. Thankfully we don’t live in a sewer like Stockton where four people are murder in one week and that is just considered the way it is. I sometimes wonder if the Ramos family thinks we in the media don’t care about her death, maybe she wasn’t special enough or a big enough story. One life lost is just as precious and a sad story as the next. I am not sure why the other media have sloughed over her plight. I know Ramos is not forgotten by family and friends and even if the story falls from the pages it is still written in our hearts and minds.