Anna Quindlen’s Great Obligation

No doubt, Anna Quindlen is a fine writer, but her recent backpage article for Newsweek made me cringe.

In an effort distance herself from “frauds” like Jayson Blair and Jack Kelley, Quindlen moves to the moral high-ground. Journalists aren’t just chroniclers of the times, apparently every time a faceless so-and-so victim is mentioned in print, said victim should be grateful that their lives are immortalized. Quoting David Halberstam “For most people [this is] the one time they got their name in print”.

Oh thank you for validating my existence.

The brunt of Quindlen’s piece concerns an article she wrote some years ago about the parents of Etan Patz, a 6-year-old boy who disappeared from a Manhattan bus stop in 1979. Quindlen remains puzzled that the father, Stanley Patz no longer wishes to discuss the matter, nor can recollect the piece she wrote. Fortunately, Quindlen manages to rationalize this omission by somehow making herself the centre of Patz’ universe:

“Still [Katz] clips stories out of habit. The original impulse is gone: “To create a history for Etan.” If you’re a reporter I leave you with that image for those times when you think what you do is fleeting. The closest thing this man has to the body of his son is the body of your work. If that doesn’t make you want to do better, find another job.”

Oh Anna, get over yourself! The closest thing we have are patch-work memories, and a few of the victim’s earthly possessions, which – in the case of Kristen French – are getting fewer the last time they were checked. Yes, someone broke into the home of the parent’s of Kristen French in St. Catherines, Ontario and stole jewelry that belonged to the young girl. That’s low. I have some of my sister’s jewelry; like the French’s it is worthless monetarily, but personally, it is priceless – I keep it enshrined on my bookshelf.

And I love how the news headlines wouldn’t even refer to Kristen by name; she was “that Bernardo victim” of course.

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