OK, let me see if I can get this straight.
Truck driver Bruce Mendenhall, 56, is charged with killing a young woman at a truck stop and then subsequently implicated in five other slayings, based on his responses to police questioning. Though innocent until proven guilty of these murders, Mendenhall's name and face gets splashed across the top of every news web site last week -- CNN.com had him in the top slot, mug shot and all, last Friday with the banner "Truck driver suspected of killing 6 in 4 states" for all the world to see.
Yet no one -- NOT ONE MAINSTREAM NEWS ORGANIZATION -- does the same for Edward A. Regener of Perris, CA.
I suspect more than a few of you out there know who he is (and where I am going with this as well). You see, Regener is a 13-year veteran driver for FedEx Freight. In 2006, he managed to extricate himself from a pile of burning vehicles (his truck among him) following a highway pileup (NOT caused by him, I might add) and then jumped BACK INTO THE FLAMES to pull two men out of the burning car that DID cause the accident. For this he deservedly won Goodyear's 2007 Highway Heroes award ...
... which garnered ZIPPO in coverage by the national media. I guess that means you need to KILL people to make the news, not SAVE them, right?
This is an ongoing problem in the news business, I am afraid -- and one that's just getting worse. By no means should we NOT report the horrific crimes of creatures like Mr. Medenhall, and if he is convicted fair and square, he should get the toughest sentence the law allows. But WHY do we need to make him and his evil PAGE ONE NEWS when folks out there SAVING lives -- jumping into burning cars, for goodness sakes! -- get nary a whiff of news coverage? What are we valuing here?
Let me tell you, I read the news all day (and sometimes all night) long and it is like sifting through a steaming pile of misery, corruption, death, pain, suffering, and hate. Every now and again, something good comes to light -- something that shines a light (FINALLY!) on the good side of human nature that, by the way, REALLY does exist out there.
What really irritates me the most is that a constant stream of news focused ONLY on the failings of certain segments of our population -- be they truck drivers, muslims, whomever and whatever -- inevitably paints an extremely negative image in the collective minds of our nation. Believe it or not, MOST muslims are NOT violent terrorists! Just the way most Christians are NOT right wing bigots! The way most truck drivers are NOT serial killers in disguise!
This focus on the negative is also a problem in corporate management today as well. Ken Bayor, VP-labor relations for refuse hauling firm Republic Services in Ft. Lauderdale FL (a brilliant person that I've quoted here extensively before) believes that managers tend to focus just on the 8% of the workforce that gives them the most headaches - not the "Steady Ed's and Superstars" that really make a company shine.
"You must make the everyday Joe and Jane feel like a hero - and not make that artificial," Baylor says. "You need to be straightforward with them in terms of job requirements, but never ever miss an opportunity to say ‘thank you - you did a good job.‘ How many times do you say ‘I am proud of you‘ to your employees and drivers? We need to talk about pride - for pride still matters in this industry. Pride in what your company does keeps people and attracts more of the good ones you want. "
With all due repsect to our need to dissect criminals and their crimes -- allowing us to understand them, so we can prevent such horror from occuring in the future -- we need to dissect the deeds of the HEROES among us, too, in perhaps greater detail so we can figure out how and why they do what they do. I want that one hour 20/20 special on Ed Regener to find out how he summoned the courage to do what he did, so maybe we can spread that around the country and hopefully generate a lot more of it.
That's why I think we desperately need more balance out there in the news, so we can highlight the heroes among us and learn how to emulate them. That's really news worth reporting.