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Respect for family’s grief outweighs ‘getting the story’

On March 2, Jeff Bahr and I conducted easily one of the hardest interviews we’ve ever had to conduct. Scheduled to write a tribute piece on the late Lance Cpl. Osbrany Montes De Oca for the March 7 paper, Jeff and I had the challenge of talking to the mother of the man, just two years my junior.

After conducting the interview, which was made easier by Osbrany’s mother Miriam having the most composure of any person I’ve ever met, I couldn’t help but think how happy I was to have the opportunity to do that interview.

As I continued thinking, however, I couldn’t help but think of the response we got at the Observer for not writing the article the minute we found out Osbrany had passed. Many readers called, e-mailed, and reached out via our website to ask us why we hadn’t done anything. One even said that we had, “a lack of journalistic spirit.”

I couldn’t believe what we had been accused of. A lack of journalistic spirit? Looking at our writing staff, which besides me, has many years in the business, a lack of journalistic spirit is certainly not something that we have.

I would like to say that maybe we just have a sense of compassion.

When I was in college, we were trained for many situations that we could be in as reporters. Whether it be as simple as covering a town hall meeting or as complex as asking about President Obama’s election, we had many different experiences, but not once did we have to ask a family member, a mother especially, about her young son’s passing.

I know about all about the shady side of journalism, where breaking information means money and the ruthless aggression it takes to succeed in this business, but personally, take a minute to think about your own mother.

Osbrany was only 20 years-old. Jeff, Ron, or myself, would have had to interview a mother the day of her son’s burial to get a word with her? I can’t speak about anyone else’s life experience, but I couldn’t imagine thinking about the death of friends of mine in the military, let alone elevating that to being personally related to them and trying to do the same thing.

Sure, its easy to sit back and watch as other papers got the who, what, where, when, why, and how of Osbrany’s sad passing, but did we need to be the gloom and doom added to this family’s already tough situation? I don’t think so.

The Observer did sit back, but only to give the mother time to heal, and ultimately, leading to a great article written by Jeff, giving great honor and personal touch to a story which needed to be told. A story that no other paper even bothered to try and obtain.

So for those of you who look at us and expect us to be the heartless “journalists” that you see in other places, I’m sorry to disappoint you. That’s not the kind of people we were, are, or ever will be.

On another note, Jeff and I wanted to make sure that we properly thanked Anthony Baez, a former Marine and close confidant to the Montes De Oca family for all his help in obtaining and conducting the interview with Miriam, Franklin, and Rosa Matos and translating two of the interviews for us. Without your help, we would not have been able to fully honor the life of one of our fallen Marines.

-Anthony J. Machcinski

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