Monday, March 21, 2011

Media Crit 2

We just had a baby a little bit ago, so I think I should be forgiven for being behind on my weird Brooklyn political scandals. But I have to say that, reading for the first time about the saga surrounding the arrest of State Senator Carl Kruger, I found myself wondering just what the heck the Times was trying to tell me about him.

Here's the story in which I first heard about all of this. It details how Kruger was charged in a complex bribery scheme, along with a bunch of other men, including the two sons of the local community board's district manager, Dorothy Turano. (For what it's worth, I've talked with Kruger and Turano on the phone, separately, years ago. They were nice?). Anyway, the weirdness starts -- at least for me, a guy who hasn't been paying attention to the news, and who is reading all this cold -- a few paragraphs in. It describes Turano's sons this way: "two never-married middle-aged brothers". OK, interesting choice of emphasis, but let's move on.

For more than 25 years, Mr. Kruger and the Turanos of Mill Basin have forged the most unconventional of domestic arrangements — at once public and opaque, widely whispered about and poorly understood.

Hmmm ...

The Turanos are variously described by friends, neighbors and colleagues as the senator’s social acquaintances, lovers or surrogate relatives.

Whoa, whoa. Now how about that for a sentence? To just attempt to diagram it: Its subjects, three of them, are Dorothy Turano and her two sons. So they (collectively? All of them?) are described as his social acquaintances, lovers (!) or surrogate relatives? Or, they're variously described as those three very various things? But we don't get to be told who in that list is described, by whom, as which thing? Which is kind of important, right? (Or, arguably, not at all important. But the people who produced this story obviously think it's worth dwelling on somewhat.)

Here is my point: Is the Times implying that Carl Kruger is gay? If so (and of course that's what they're doing), why don't they just come out and say it?

Here is as close as this particular story comes:

Investigators, who tapped the senator’s cellphone for months, have both muddied and clarified the situation, suggesting that Mr. Kruger, 61, had his most intimate relationship with Michael, 49, picking him up at the office and fielding phone calls from him throughout the day. “Kruger spoke with Michael Turano,” court records say, “in a manner that revealed that they relied on and supported one another.”

But when asked whether Mr. Kruger was a close friend of her son, Ms. Turano, through the security intercom at her front door, said: “He was my friend. That’s why I don’t understand about this. Whatever comes out is going to be so wrong.”

A mischievous reader might suggest that this passage both muddies and clarifies the situation.

At this point in my reading experience, I think, I closed my laptop, went to change a few diapers, and forgot about Carl Kruger and his acquaintances/lovers/surrogate relatives for a while. But today I found myself thinking about it all again. Kruger's domestic situation is no doubt pretty fascinating. (Fun fact: He and the Turanos apparently all live in a house that was first built as the mansion of a mafia boss.) But, while I get the impression from this story that a lot of interesting stuff is going on, also get no clear idea of just what all that interesting stuff is. The story actually seems to be trying to prevent me from understanding what it's also trying pretty hard to tell me.

Look, I understand libel law and whatnot. And I know that sensitive stories like this get a pretty thorough once-over from the paper's lawyers, and that editors are careful. But after a while, isn't it fair to wonder, What's the point? By which I mean, if you aren't willing to come out and directly state the one thing that your story is pretty strongly about, then should you still be publishing the story in the first place?

Postscript: It actually wasn't hard at all to find clarity in this muddy situation -- once I looked outside the pages of the Times. The Post was pretty succinct about it:

As were New York Magazine and this random blog that Google pointed me to.

So, basically, my bad for stumbling on the most confusing possible story about this whole mess as my first exposure to it.

And, just to be clear, I don't actually think that Kruger and the Turanos' personal life is a very important part of the story, other than as a sideshow. But I do think that, if papers are going to write whole articles about that aspect of the story, they might as well come out and say what they're saying, for everybody's sake.

No comments:

Post a Comment