Bedside matters: the Times negotiates details?

terridied33005.jpgEarlier today, I tried to post a link to the very first New York Times article on the death of Terri Schiavo. However, the server locked up and I lost it. I did, however, save the URL for later.

Now, it appears that this story has been rewritten — no surprise — but the element of the story that most interested me is now gone. That first story had a very clear, well, blow-by-blow description of who was where at the time of Terri’s death.

Since I no longer have the text, let me reconstruct by memory. Basically, you had Terri’s siblings in the room up until just before the moment of death, then Michael Schiavo had them removed so that he could be there at the moment of death and then her parents were briefly allowed back in the room to view the body.

There just has to be more to this scene than that. Meanwhile, the re-rewritten piece by reporters William Yardley and Maria Newman now includes a version of the events that does not hide the family conflict, but also does not do as clear a job of what happened when. Here are pieces of the still-evolving text:

“Her husband was present by her bed, cradling her,” said George Felos, Michael Schiavo’s lawyer. “Mrs. Schiavo died a calm death, a peaceful death and a gentle death.” . . .

The bitterness was so intense that the two warring families could not even be in the same room with Ms. Schiavo at the same time. . . .

David Gibbs, a lawyer for Ms. Schiavo’s parents, said her brother and sister were with Ms. Schiavo until just before she died.

“While they are heartsick, this is indeed a sad day for the nation, this is a sad day for the family,” Mr. Gibbs said. “Their faith in God remains consistent and strong. They are absolutely convinced that God loves Terri more than they do.” . . .

Ms. Schiavo’s parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, came to the hospice shortly after they learned of her death and prayed at her bedside, said Brother Paul O’Donnell, a Franciscan Friar who has served as a spokesman for the parents. They left after a brief visit.

There are going to be, I predict, all kinds of rumors and secondhand accounts of how the brother and sister exited the room and precisely when the husband entered. I heard four different versions of this on the campus where I teach by the end of the workday.

For better or for worse, the blogs are going to wade in there. This is why I am disappointed that the clarity of the early Times piece seems to have vanished. Did anyone else see that early version?

Meanwhile, the Associated Press has moved on to the next battle. The burial:

Terri Schiavo’s ashes will be buried in an undisclosed location near Philadelphia so that her immediate family doesn’t show up and turn the burial into a media spectacle, a member of the Schiavo family said Thursday.

“If Mike knew they would come in peace, he would have no problem with it,” Scott Schiavo, Michael Schiavo’s brother, said during an interview at his home.

After an autopsy, Michael Schiavo plans to have his wife’s body cremated and her ashes brought to Pennsylvania, where she grew up. Scott Schiavo said the ashes would be buried in a plot left by an aunt and uncle, but the family does not plan on providing the specficic location for the burial — underscoring the bitterness of the dispute.

Her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, had fought for years to prevent her feeding tube from being removed, and they opposed cremation and wanted her buried in Florida.

On a personal note, the D.C. breau of Scripps Howard also asked me to turn an updated version of my column for this week — focusing on the Schiavo case and the current Roman Catholic teachings on cremation. If you want to see that, click here.

UPDATED: I think this is just getting started. Here is a television website report (strange coding on this thing) with a priest-said, lawyer-said debate about who offended who. Note the connection to the Priests for Life story elsewhere.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Kevin

    To the very end this crime was sanitized by the MSM. The Orwellian distortion of lanquage, the failure to report on both the key facts and players involoved in this case, as well as concealing the cruelty inflicted on the family were essential to developing a narrative that the American people could accept.
    While I tremble for those who live in life shadows, I truly believe who death wil not be in vain. It is those who operate in darkness that have the most to fear. The murder of Terri Schiavo will be the fall of many in America.

  • Kevin

    Her death will not be in vain.

  • Brad

    Here’s a really good piece from 2003 (after Jeb Bush’s first “stay” of execution) by a Yale professor named David Gelernter.

    He points out something I’ve thought of but not many have really talked about…the fact that back when abortion was first made legal, anyone who said it would soon come to the point where the state allowed the killing of the handicapped would have been considered quite a fear-monger.

    Well, here we are.


  • saint

    Yes because of the time differences I was up when the first one line report was posted on Aussie sites. So I read a few the first pieces as they began getting posted(The Times, NYT, Christian Science Monitor, some regional papers). Can’t recall details of who wrote what. I remember thinking gosh they were ready for this. And I also remember thinking after reading a couple of articles: gosh I think this is the first time I have read any reports that seemed a bit bareboned, restrained , and dare I say it, written with even a touch of human warmth and maybe a little sadness. Like I had come across something in mainstream media abut Terri Schiavo that was written in a way where there was finally some acknowledgement that someone, a person, a human being, a woman named Terri, one of us, just died.

  • saint

    Er… I should have said ‘despite the time differences’