Reporting facts, even when it hurts

 

I have read your recent feature stories on environmental justice, and as much as I want to appreciate the coverage of the stories that have built this movement and continue to push the fundamental changes necessary to clean up and restore the well-being of our planet and people, I find myself outraged at your portrayal of Richard Moore at the end of the article (HCN, 2/01/10).

To summarize his life as a "63-year-old jail inmate, serving a six-month term for a drunken-driving accident that left a young Air Force recruit with brain injuries" is cruel.

Richard Moore has spent several decades of his life protecting tens of thousands of lives from poisoning, injustice and neglect, as he continues to do so while behind bars and for as long as he lives. He has inspired and continues to promote the necessary leadership of impacted residents, young people and movement leaders from all sectors, as well as public officials, to follow through on the vision of economic and environmental justice. It is painful to see Richard turn inward and ill to take responsibility for his tragic mistake that injured the man. And it is obscene to see a news group (that seem like allies) hit him when he's down with such careless words, portraying him like prison is all there is to him.

Mari Rose Taruc
Oakland, California

Ray Ring responds:
It was not an easy decision. I decided to report Richard Moore's alcohol trouble without sensationalizing it. Our package of stories included a great deal of positive information about Moore's work and dedication. With his 30 years of political activism, Moore has made himself a public figure, and if I had not reported his conviction for a serious crime, I would have been negligent or guilty of manipulating the news. Also, I think we need to admit problems with alcohol, not keep them secret, in order to raise awareness and work on reducing the toll. Our main concern should be for the victims who are harmed by drunken drivers -- and for others who might be harmed in the future -- rather than for protecting the reputations of those who drive while impaired.