The story of James Kim, who died of hypothermia in a remote part of Oregon after setting out on foot to seek help for his stranded family, was a sad capper to the year 2006 for many. A lot of things went wrong for the Kims as they started out for a holiday trip only to have it end in disaster.
Spencer H. Kim, James Kim's Father, has today a plea appearing in the Washington Post titled The Lessons In My Son's Death. It is a message to Oregon's emergency services community to help stop another tragedy such as befell his son from happening to anyone else.
He has many suggestions from better marked roads (his son accidentally drove down an unmarked logging road and ended up stranded far from help), to timelier emergency services and better tracking of cell phone and credit card usage. But his last point was, to my mind, the most tragic and least sensible of the troubles that befell his son and daughter-in-law.
And that tragedy was supplied by the media.
Finally, the Federal Aviation Administration classification code for Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR) to limit media presence during a life-or-death search-and-rescue operation should be more strictly enforced. A TFR is used to restrict aircraft operations within designated areas to separate "non-participating" aircraft from those engaged in official activities, including search-and-rescue operations.(I bolded the last line for emphasis)
Unfortunately for James, aviation authorities acquiesced to media requests to relax restrictions and allowed low-altitude media flights in the area while the aerial search was still underway. This untimely and irrational decision caused many rescue helicopters to abandon their operations for one full afternoon due to dangerous conditions created by media airplanes. It took personal pleas to Washington to get restrictions reinstated. The search, not media interest, should be the top priority.
Who can doubt that, in the rush to get the story, the media has, once again, turned human tragedy into mere fodder for their air time? And, it is entirely believable that a media more interested in their own needs did nothing but get in the way of the people who were trying to save lives.
Just as the Media lends credence and succor to terrorists by slavishly reporting their every propagandistic word and deed, so they insinuate themselves into the lives of people suffering great emotional distress just so that they can "get" their story.
The media has a lot to answer for in general, but now, according to Mr. Kim, they have the death of James Kim added to their list of black deeds.
I'll close with Father Kim's brief memorial to his son:
With his last heroic determination to rescue his family, James proved himself to be a man of action. My son deserves a legacy worthy of that man. As a tribute to him, I am determined to follow his lead and do all I can to prevent another senseless tragedy.