Vice News and furries, the Fullerton murder story, and “sensational media”.
by Patch O'Furr
Vice’s Furries topic has excellent news reporting. You can find a few missteps, but it has some of the best focused attention that the media has ever given to the fandom, way beyond Furries 101. One outstanding article is CSI Fur Fest: The Unsolved Case of the Gas Attack at a Furry Convention. Writer Jennifer Swann got an Ursa Major award nomination for it. Their most recent is Who Makes Those Intricate, Expensive Furry Suits? (Fred Patten and myself were proud to assist writer Mark Hay – I sent a long summary of history, makers, details to investigate, and links.)
Those show that not all media is bad, and talking to them has good results. That’s different from prevailing attitudes against “sensationalism” that blindly treats “the media” as an epithet – as if PBS is the same as the National Enquirer. There’s a world of difference between trashy daytime TV and well-researched long-form reporting. But a fandom grudge persists, for as long as 16 years after stale old incidents we all know and hate. There’s even backlash at members who step out of line. This friend of ours experienced it:
And for Sanjiv Bhattacharya, who made effort to learn about how the fandom was dealing with the Fullerton tragedy while he writes an article for The Atlantic. This article he wrote about a school shooting proves what worthy service he could be doing.
If you can help Vice cover the Fullerton story, please send a confidential contact to email@example.com that will be passed to Jennifer Swann. (Sanjiv’s contacts are in his link.) Trial news is coming, and there are a lot of unanswered questions. The hope is for a story that everyone can learn from.
Some further opinions:
For those concerned about “fandom image”, a smart idea is to pick good, careful reporters to work with. Refusing to talk is reasonable for stories that don’t exist unless the media makes them. But I don’t think that’s the case with this murder story. It will get attention no matter what, and it’s a community happening with undeniable furry connection. (There would have been no crime if the participants weren’t closely tied through fandom – akin to a tragedy at a school or workplace). Rumors and false beliefs about it can get dismantled with careful reporting, but they grow worse without it. I think it’s self-defeating to assume “the media” in general has bad faith.
Journalist work involves fact finding. Like in a court, there’s a process of putting evidence itself on trial. There can be many versions of a story that need a pro to investigate. Kind of like lawyers, journalists are liable to get treated like they’re always wrong – until a person needs one on their side. Good reporting can make sympathy, abate rumors, or aid a cause like fund raising for the kids in this story. Free press is even essential to democracy. It’s about government (that’s what law and justice is.)
It all relates to telling a shocking story, which isn’t the same as being “sensational”. If anti-intellectual attitude shuts down reporting it, next time something bad happens, then ask “how could we have seen this coming? Why us? How can we stop this?” And the answers were there, but nothing was learned because image was too important. Or worse – nobody even bothers thinking about it because it has “nothing to do with us”.
It’s easier to forget the whole thing. But there are those close to this story who will never forget. Understanding for them can come through understanding by us.
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