COLUMN: Don’t be so quick to judge

Allen Hines

On Oct. 5, the Daily Kent Stater reported on Brian Peteritis, a junior Kent State student who was found dead in his room in Centennial Court B. Monday’s letter to the editor condemned the article as “cut-throat journalism” because reporter Angie Prosen contacted Peteritis’s mother, Lynn. But I believe the decision to call Peteritis was the right one.

It may appear that I’m biased because I work for the Stater, but I would defend any news organization on this issue.

Calling Peteritis was indeed good journalism. Many times, talking about death has a cathartic effect. Very few, if any, reporters have degrees in psychology, but we listen well. And sometimes, that’s what people need to get through personal tragedies.

Another reason for calling Peteritis was to remember Brian as something more than the person who died in Centennial Court B. I didn’t know him, but the Oct. 5 piece painted him as a smart and interesting person. I could not see this without the comments of Lynn Peteritis. Through Lynn Peteritis, we learned that Brian was active in many high school plays, he qualified for the national speech contests his senior year in high school, and he made the Honor Roll and Dean’s List many times. I think it’s more important to remember Brian Peteritis as a person, not a statistic.

Lynn Peteritis had the choice to either talk to the Daily Kent Stater reporter or, as suggested in the letter to the editor, give her a “big ‘(expletive) you.'” All reporters must prepare themselves for the latter when working on stories that involve death.

Also integral to Monday’s letter is the sense that the Stater committed an injustice by printing an insensitive article on the front page. The Oct. 5 story was very sympathetic. The cause of death was put gently. The reporter even offered to act as a conduit between family and friends of Brian Peteritis. The story was put on the front page to get this information out.

The press should be able to interview relatives of those who have just passed away without being made into the villain. We try to be a sort of free therapists, understanding and non-judgmental. We try to present the deceased with reverence. And, most importantly, we don’t force the relatives to speak, only give them the opportunity. But still, we are seen as evil.

I can only speak for myself in this column, but if the Oct. 5 article upset Lynn Peteritis, I apologize.

Allen Hines is a freshman pre-journalism and mass communication major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].