Janesville69.7°

Criticism of "Hammy" coverage hard to take

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Scott Angus
July 22, 2008

Now wait a minute. We take criticism all of the time, and we let most of it slide. But this is simply unfair.

The Janesville Gazette and gazettextra.com made a special effort to provide coverage of the funeral of bar owner Mark “Hammy” Hamilton. We sent a reporter and photographer, and we chronicled the touching remembrance of an obviously beloved man on the front page of the paper and on our Web site.

Before the commemoration Monday, we received many calls from people asking us to cover the parade of motorcycles and other events to remember this longtime Harley rider.

Our reporter, Cathy Idzerda, wrote a wonderful story, and photographer Dan Lassiter took strong photos of the scenes outside Hammy’s bar and at Tremors down the street.

One of the photos showed Hammy’s grieving widow, Suzanne, being comforted by her brother, Steve Steinke. It’s a moving photo that shows the depths of the emotions that flowed Monday.

And immediately, we got criticized on our Web site for allegedly being “sensational,” “insensitive” and “distasteful.”

“The photo of Suzanne simply illustrates how insensitive and distasteful the Gazette can be,” one commenter wrote.

I’m sorry, but that’s simply untrue. The package is a wonderful tribute to Hammy, and it represents a significant commitment on the Gazette’s part. We don’t do that for everybody, by a long shot, but we did it for Hammy.

We did it because we are a good bunch of people and journalists committed to reflecting the things that happen in our community. Some are good; some are bad; some are happy; some are sad.

The photo of Suzanne was taken from a distance, and it shows a brother supporting his sister in her time of need. A poster saying, “We Miss You Hammy,” is visible in the background. It’s poignant and appropriate without being intrusive or overly graphic.

Hammy’s funeral procession was a special way to send off a special guy, and we gave it the special treatment that it deserved. It’s tough to take when people overlook that big picture for one photo that they—wrongly, in my mind—perceive to be insensitive.



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