There’s been a news story here in the Detroit area for the past week that is really starting to bother me. If you live in Metro Detroit you probably already know about the murder of Jane Bashara. I don’t know how you couldn’t, it’s pretty much front and center in every newspaper, newscast, and news radio in Detroit. It’s even made some of the national shows (you know, hard hitting journalists like Nancy Grace). For those of you who don’t live in the Detroit area, I’ll give a brief overview of what happened. Bob and Jane Bashara live in Gross Pointe Park, a very affluent area just outside of Detroit. They seem to be pretty well off financially, Jane is a marketing executive, and Bob seems to be involved in real estate. They have two college age kids. Last Tuesday Bob reports Jane missing, the next day her body is found in her car in an area of town that is pretty much the opposite of Gross Pointe Park.
What I just told you is everything that I know about the case (if you want to read more just go to detnews.com or freep.com and read more than you could ever possibly want to know) it is also about as much as most other people know. You could never tell that from the comments in the paper, however. From day one people were blaming the husband. “He looks guilty”, “I knew from the minute I heard it that he was guilty”, and far worse can be found in the comment area under every news article you read about this case. What I want to know is, how did these people get so smart? How do they KNOW what happened? I think I’ve read as much as they have, and I have no idea what happened. I know that if you put a gun to my head and made me guess, I’d guess that he did it. But that would only be because I would have no idea who else to guess, and neither does anyone else.
Now, the media investigates every aspect of these peoples lives, and we find out some pretty unflattering things about Bob. His personal life, however, does not mean that he is a murderer. I’m not so sure the media should be portraying him as one either, not until he is at least charged with a crime. Also, in all of this we tend to lose sight of the fact that an innocent woman lost her life. A woman who was a wife, mother, daughter, and sister. There is a whole community of family and friends who are grieving, and I wish people would remember that before they decide to make comments.
All of this leads me to some questions. What exactly is the role of the media? Is it to report the news, or is it to investigate and try to solve a crime? Is it both? I understand that investigative journalism has its place. It helps to keep our government and its officials in line, and report on them when they step out of line. It also has a role in protecting consumers against abuses by corporations, and many other important societal contributions, but I’m not sure that one of them is protecting us against Bob Bashara. Bob may be a murderer, I have no idea, but the job of figuring that out belongs to the justice system, not Clark Kent.
The other question it makes me think is this – what if the woman who was murdered lived in the area where Jane Bashara was found (bad neighborhood) and her body was found in Gross Pointe Park? How much media coverage would we have then? I’m guessing not even enough for me to even notice, let alone write a post about. Why do we put more emphasis on the story when it involves people who are “well-off”? Some people want to blame the media for ignoring these cases when they involve the underprivileged, but I think the problem runs much deeper than that. The problem lies with us, society. The reason the media reports more on some cases than others is because that’s what we want to read. If the story is about a dead prostitute we tend to care less than if it’s about a dead advertising executive. Both lives have equal weight, but the stories apparently do not. So, if you happen to get the urge to pray for Jane Bashara and the family (including Bob, guilty or not), please also remember to pray for the countless others suffering this day whose stories weren’t intriguing enough to make the papers. Their stories may not have been as marketable, but their lives were of equal value.