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Thursday, March 29, 2012

ASSIGNMENT - "Journey for Justice" discussion for Journalism

In class we read the true-crime book Journey for Justice: How 'Project Angel' Cracked the Candace Derksen Case.

Cover of Journey for Justice.
It was written by Mike McIntyre, and it details the events of Candace Derksen's disappearance, death, and the eventual trial of her killer, Mark Grant.

The book feels like it has two sections with two different styles of writing.  The first section deals with the initial disappearance of Candace, and the search for her.  This section reads much like a regular novel.

As this was the first true-crime book I've ever read, I wasn't expecting this style at all.  I was pleasantly surprised.  I think the style works because it kept me interested in what would happen next, as it was told as a story.  It also made me feel a connection to the characters, as McIntyre used lots of dialogue, much of it from Wilma Derksen's (Candace's mother) own book, Have You Seen Candace?

The second section looks at the trial of Mark Grant.  I lost some of my interest reading this part because it was written the way I expected a true-crime book to be written: lots of facts, legal jargon, newspaper articles, and psychiatric reports.  While some of these things were interesting, a lot of it was over my head or repetitive.

The main thing this section loses out on, is the connection to the characters I felt in the first part of the book.

I think that journalists can learn the importance of emotional content from this book.  While getting the facts straight is the top priority of a journalist, it is only the skeleton of a story.  I believe that all stories can be improved by the thoughts and feelings of the people involved in the story.  This is why I enjoyed the first half of the book more than the second.

I saw a documentary called Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father, which also deals with a murder case.  When I compare these two works, it strengthens my thoughts on emotional value.  Dear Zachary shows the struggle of a murdered man's parents to gain custody of his daughter from the woman they believe murdered him.

Seeing how they feel and think is what makes the film so interesting.  They also give factual information, but it doesn't bog down the story like the end of Journey for Justice.  Although, I did feel that Journey for Justice felt like much more of a journalism piece than Dear Zachary, as the director of Dear Zachary was a friend of the deceased and very involved in the story.

After reading Journey for Justice, Mike McIntyre and Wilma Derksen came to Red River to speak to us.  It was interesting to hear how the book came to be, but I would have liked to hear more of what Wilma had to say, as McIntyre did most of the talking.  I was amazed reading the book and listening to Wilma speak, at how loving and forgiving she is.  It's hard for me to understand how she doesn't, and never did, let anger towards Grant overwhelm her.

Overall, the book was a very interesting read and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys true-crime books, or those who haven't read one.  It was nice to see that good story telling can thrive in these kinds of books.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Zombie Muhammad

I have come across an interesting news story while surfing the World Wide Web.

Apparently during a Hallowe'en parade in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, a man named Ernest Perce V decided to dress up as a zombified Muhammad.  He was joined by a zombified Pope, both part of the Parading Atheists of Central Pennsylvania.

Talaag Elbayomy, a Muslim man, was at the parade with his family, and allegedly choked Perce.

"He grabbed me, choked me from the back, and spun me around to try to get my sign off that was wrapped around my neck," Perce told ABC 27.  The sign said: Muhammed of Islam.

When the case went to court, Judge Mark Martin dismissed the charges against Elbayomy, saying there wasn't enough evidence.  He also gave Perce a piece of his mind with this speech:

"Having had the benefit of having spent over two and a half years in predominantly Muslim countries I think I know a little bit about the faith of Islam.  In fact I have a copy of the Koran here and I challenge you sir to show me where it say in the Koran that Mohammad arose and walked among the dead.  I think you misinterpreted things.  Before you start mocking someone else's religion you may want to find out a little bit more about it.  It makes you look like a doofus.  In many Arabic speaking countries something like this is definitely against the law there.  In their society in fact it can be punishable by death and it frequently is in their society."

After the incident, Perce said he had received over 470 threats.

"People have said they would kill me, rip my eyes out, run me over, shoot me and then laugh at me, since I have blasphemed Muhammad.  They say I will be found and hung in front of my family."

The judge has also received threats based on his ruling, causing him to be relocated for safety reasons.