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Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Power of the Media - Are the People of Snohomish, Washington TRULY Evil Grinches Who Want Brett Karch to Die a Miserable Death? 

I forget who said that if it's in print, it must be true, but that person would certainly take note of the snowballing ramifications of a single news article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. (Thanks to Michael Hanscom for tagging this particular item.)

The cannon shot that ripped into Brett Karch's leg, causing a gaping combat-style wound, has also torn a hole in his hometown community of Snohomish.

Karch, whose leg was nearly amputated and who faces more than a year of physical rehabilitation with an uncertain outcome, has been the target of physical threats because of fears his injury will jeopardize the community's tradition of firing the ceremonial cannon before each high school football game and after touchdowns....

But the shot that nearly took off Brett Karch's leg now leaves the fate of that tradition in the air, and that has upset some in the community.

According to Karch's medical records, security guards notified police after Karch received disturbing phone calls and visits from parents and students, some of whom threatened to "break his other leg" or worse, if he didn't keep quiet about the accident. Hospital staff had to move him to a secure room where they monitored visitors.

Callers and visitors told Karch they would "make sure his other leg got blown off," and that "there would be retaliation" if the family cooperated in an investigation that could end the cannon tradition, said Mary Bissel, Karch's mother. "That's when I kind of got a little upset," Karch said.

The threats also included mention the family would be "banned from the town," Bissell said. She's been warned not to talk to a lawyer, or reporters.

The allegations of threats, as well as the cause of the accident, remain under investigation. Hospital security reported the threats to the Everett Police Department, but police, who came to the hospital to interview Karch and his mother, won't release the incident report, citing the open investigation into the cause of the accident.

The article, written by Carol Smith, is the only media coverage that I have been able to find of this incident, although other media sources have derived stories based upon Carol Smith's article (but adding no new information).

For what it's worth, one should note that a news report often only gives part of the full story of what's going on. Carol Smith concentrated her story on the perspective of Brett Karch and his mother. I don't believe that Smith had any journalistic obligation to interview every resident of Snohomish, but I believe that we the readers of the story had an obligation to realize that parts of the story may not yet have been told.

However, some readers have taken Smith's story as the full and complete gospel truth, and drawn conclusions about the residents of Snohomish.

Exhibit One: a petition against the ridiculous acts of Snohomish:

Many people through news communities on the internet such as Fark and Digg (others may be unlisted) and other news headlines on the internet were VERY upset to read what the community of Snohomish has actually done. Through these articles we found out the true nature of many in the Snohomish community, eager for football and willing to risk a life for it. This petition is being started to show every single person who cares about a sport over the well-being of a human being, that there are A LOT of people out there who think they are irrational and are the best examples of the sad people in this world.

Now, when did Carol Smith claim that the entire town of Snohomish exhibits this so-called "true nature"? Assuming the facts in the story are accurate, it's likely that only a few people made the threats. Does that mean that the entire town should be tarred and feathered?

Let's move on to Exhibit Two, a fundraiser:

Brett Karch, an ROTC student, almost lost his leg due to a cannon explosion at a football game. The town's reaction? Threaten to break his other leg if the story gets out to the media causing them to possibly lose their ritual shooting of the cannon during football games....Just because a small ignorant town turns their back on Brett does not mean we will.

Again, how do we conclude that the entire town of Snohomish is united in their contempt of Brett Karch? I'll grant that no one came to his party, but perhaps there are other reasons for this that Carol Smith was unable to uncover.

Let's give Snohomish the benefit of the doubt. I can't fathom that the entire town is football-happy. In fact, if you go to the school district itself, you'll see that they are devoted to general education, and in fact have set up a scholarship fund:

The Dick Armstrong Memorial Scholarship Fund is dedicated to the memory of Dick Armstrong, former Snohomish High School teacher and football coach. The Snohomish Education Foundation is working in cooperation with a group of alumni to create a scholarship fund in his honor. The Fund has been established to help create a life-size bronze statue of Armstrong at Veterans Memorial Stadium....

Um...umm...yeah, Snohomish is...dedicated to education! Yes, that's wonderful! Let's read on for the educational content:

Snohomish High School alumni spanning 32 years are working together to honor their former football coach and teacher, Dick Armstrong.

Armstrong started his career in Snohomish in 1963 as a biology and physical education teacher and—unforgettably—as head football coach.

Note the importance of Armstrong's work as a biology teacher, and the lasting impact that this has had on the community - impact that lasted for nearly half a sentence.

OK, maybe I chose a bad example.

Let's see the initial local coverage of the explosion. This was published on Friday, October 13, 2006:

Future of school cannon unclear
The Snohomish High School cannon blew up during a game last week.

By Melissa Slager
Herald Writer

It remains to be seen if a 36-year-old tradition will go by the wayside next week when Snohomish High School holds its next football game.

A smoke-blowing, booming cannon that marked the start of each home game and Panther touchdown since 1970 blew up at the homecoming game Oct. 6, seriously injuring one student and causing minor injuries to four others.

"At this point we have not determined anything with the cannon," said Shannon Parthemer, a spokeswoman for the district. "The school district's primary concern remains the welfare of the students involved."

A sophomore boy remains hospitalized at Providence Everett Medical Center's Colby campus after being injured by the blast.

He has had multiple surgeries on his leg, according to school staff. The family requested his name not be released.

Four other students received minor injuries and were released at the game to their parents....

Mack and other school staff have visited the injured boy in the hospital.

"He seemed upbeat, was talkative and alert," Mack said. The boy's hospital room is decorated with "Get Well" cards. "He thinks the hospital food is great."

Again, if you look at Melissa Slager's article, you get an entirely different perspective of the same situation. The boy is getting a a lot of visitors. People are sending "Get Well" cards. Things sound wonderful.

Of course, you can read between the lines of Slager's article, and note that there's no evidence of anyone other than school staff visiting the boy. And why is the boy anonymous?

Frankly, I think that Slager and Smith are probably missing a huge chunk of the story. For example, what if the ROTC members are considered the school nerds, and Karch is considered the nerdiest of the nerds? Or perhaps Karch's mother caught Snohomish's mayor snorting cocaine under the football bleachers. We just don't know.

But I suspect that the popular vision of an entire town wanting to break both of Brett Karch's legs is not the truth.


From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

I think the article, and least some of the folks I talked to, are more concerned about the lack of apparent interest the community gave to the injury at hand. The HeraldNet's first coverage of the cannon incident focused more on the potential end of the cannon tradition as opposed to the injuries sustained by five students. That lapse in details may have given rise to the threats and general lack of community interest in Brett Karch and his injury. Only after the PI article was posted was there a response from the Herald and the community in general. But it seems lack of information all around has brought about this black eye to Snohomish High School.
Check out snoho.com and click on news for an update.
Brett Karch, where are you? Brett has been missing since last April, 2011. His brothers have been trying to reach him and have gotten no answers. The last anyone's heard from Brett was when he was putting together a questionable "deal" with his stepfather, Ramone. We are all worried about him and where he could be.
I have known Brett all his life and his mother for 23 years. More than likely, his mother has something to do with his disappearance. Over the years she has pulled off many, many scams. This whole story with people from Snohomish going out of their way to be mean to Brett was all made up. She had already been fighting with one of Brett's friend's mother. It had nothing to do with Brett's injuries. Her goal was to set up a fund for Brett (which she did) and get as much money from anyone who would believe her stories. This was just another one of her scams to draw in more donations.
Brett if you see this posting please call us, we love you and miss you. If any one knows where Brett is now, Please reply to this posting.
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