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News at what cost?

By PHILIP EIL  |  June 13, 2013

"THIS WHOLE STORY is ruining my life," Lawrence says. [Photo by Natalja Kent]


TENY GROSS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY AND PRACTICE OF NONVIOLENCE: That afternoon before this happened, [Melisa Lawrence, the woman in the video] sat with our staff and she said she is so stressed. There’s been threats on the family. Obviously, the daughter has been shot. She said to us, “I feel I’m so upset. I’m going to lose it on somebody.” While this incident was happening. . . we were in our offices working on booking her a place out of town for a few days.

Not to justify what has happened, but looking at the comments [in response to the story] that night, I was very disheartened at the lack of empathy and lack of understanding.

[The story is] a great moment to check our empathy level. I’m guessing that fifty, sixty years ago, when media was much more working class and people identified themselves with [the] working class, people would have been much more outraged and sympathetic maybe to the stress of a very poor family.

But the fact that not enough people were questioning that and had any solidarity showed to me how much we’ve drifted into [a] comfortable society that loves entertainment. When someone looks ridiculous, we would laugh at that. We would not stop and ask a really simple question. You don’t need to be a deep thinker to say, “What are we watching, actually? Is this entertainment? Or are we watching someone that is one of the many who are super stressed now?”


MELISA LAWRENCE, MOTHER OF THREE, LIFELONG PROVIDENCE RESIDENT, WOMAN FEATURED IN ABC6 STORY: Everybody’s like, “Oh, you’re a star now!” I don’t feel like a star. If this is what they call “being a star” then guess what? Let me be the dirt. I’d rather be . . . just a pile of dirt. Because that’s how I feel. I feel like a bag of poop. I feel like nothing. I feel like the scum of the earth.

I’m a single mom. I have no income. I had been in the hospital for a week. And to come home and the next day, the lights get turned off. Then. . . we have the party, my daughter gets shot. Then. . . Monday, I believe, my gas got shut off.

Everything’s just happening to me all at once. I was just under so much stress — like tremendous amounts of stress. That day I just wanted to be left alone. I was already sad because of everything, the whole fact that my daughter got shot and the lights getting turned off, the gas getting turned off. I didn’t want to be bothered with nobody.

I had a very close friend there with me to help me get some stuff together, ’cause we had to leave our home. I’m not allowed to stay in my house. If I stay in my house and I have my children with me, DCF will take my children from me. So in the process of all that, I saw the news reporter. She came walking around the corner. And she’s like, “Hi, Melisa. . . ” I was just like “Nope!” I was like, “No interviews, no interviews.”

When you’re dealing with the parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles or whoever — just dealing with victims of a shooting, period — have some compassion. Put yourself in their shoes. You know? Try to get a better understanding of what they’re going through and, like, approach them a different way. If they say “No,” just understand: “No” means “No.”

If a man asks a woman for sex and she says, “No,” and he still goes on and continues to still force her to have sex, he’s going to be prosecuted. But the news can be persistent to try to get information out of you, get you to do any of this stuff, but there’s no prosecution for them. They’re not prosecuted for anything.

I went into a store yesterday, the lady was like, “Oh, aren’t you the lady from TV?” I said, “No.” She was like, “Mmm, yes you are, I could tell by the way you said, ‘No,’ ignorant bitch.” I was like, “OK, don’t want nothin’ out of your store!” And I left.

Am I going to ever be able to get another job? Will I ever be able to get another dog? Those are the things I have to think about. Is anyone going to want to rent an apartment to me? This thing, it might have gotten ABC [ratings]. . . Abbey might have gotten what she wanted. . . a promotion or [a] raise or whatever for the station. But at the end, was it really worth it? Was it really worth it? Basically, this whole story is ruining my life.

All I really want to do now is just stay indoors. I don’t want to go outside. I don’t want to be around nobody except for my family and friends that are supporting me. And that’s all I wanted that day . . . just to be with family and friends and support and [to] go see my daughter. That was all I wanted. I didn’t want to be bothered.


Note: ABC6 reporter Abbey Niezgoda declined, via email, to comment for this article. ABC6 news director Robert Rockstroh did not respond to repeated emails and phone calls. We did not to go to their homes in pursuit of further comment.

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