Turning the page on the remains of Tamerlan Tsarnaev

Led by the Globe, the Boston news media covered itself in journalism glory in the early days after the marathon bombing with exhaustive 24/7 coverage of the Boylston Street carnage and metro area manhunt.

Unfortunately, with the news cycle in a lull before the judicial proceedings involving surviving suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev get fully underway, the Globe and other media outlets have expended an inordinate amount of words on a macabre exercise involving the “fate” of deceased suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

The issue has been couched as “no municipal officials in his/her right mind would allow the deceased to be buried in his/her community.” The Globe gives it a try from a different angle with a digest of what has happened to remains of notorious Americans such as the Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.  

The question, however, should be framed as, “What happens to the remains of notorious terrorists, especially ones who commit crimes outside their country of origin?” For those answers, readers must turn to an unlikely source, National Geographic.

The magazine provides some clues about the problems the Tsarnaev family may be encountering if they attempt to return Tamerlan’s body to his birthplace. Russia may not accept the body (Muslims “frown upon” embalming bodies as required for transport) and what might happen in the unlikely event that Russia gives in (the remains would go into an unmarked grave without notification to the family).

National Geographic notes that although this may be an unprecedented issue for US and Bay State officials, other countries, like France, Germany, and Israel to name just a few US allies, have had experience in dealing with the remains of foreign-born terrorists “for decades.”

Meanwhile, the fixation on the dead suspect’s body distracts from the holes in the saga of the living Tsarnaevs.  As some local reporters chase hearses, several national media outlets have published compelling, in-depth profiles that peel back the complicated layers of the family’s descent into infamy.

The Washington Post, helmed by former Globe editor Marty Baron, took on the story of Katherine Russell, the widow of the dead suspect. Though burdened with a clunky connect-the-dots-from-A-Z narrative device, the story adds revealing details about the couple’s marriage ceremony in Dorchester.

The Post also tackled how the family lost its grip on the American Dream, with snapshots of the Tsarnaevs’ lives before they arrived in the US. A Sunday New York Times front-page story mined how Dzhokhar, the well-liked brother, went over to the dark side.

But it was The New York Review of Books that provided the story that readers might have expected from a Boston media outlet.  Last week, reporter Christian Caryl delivered “The Bombers World,” a much-needed profile that filled in details about the “seven or eight families” of Chechen emigres in Boston and how some of them tried to help the Tsarnaev family adjust to life in the US. He served up a primer on Chechen family culture and tracked down the mysterious “Misha,” who was rumored to have instructed Tamerlan in a more radical strain of Islam.

Meanwhile, as a steadfast Worcester funeral home director tries valiantly to live up to the dictates of his profession, readers are treated to more “body, body, who gets the body?” reporting. The Globe’s Adrian Walker jumps into this cottage industry of burial plot story critics, too, even as his paper continues to add to the word count.

National journalists continue to demonstrate there’s plenty of necessary and original reporting to be done on the Tsarnaevs. Hopefully, in the days ahead some of that journalism will originate in the Boston area media.

                                                                                                                                                            –GABRIELLE GURLEY

MARATHON BOMBINGS

The Globe profiles Marathon bombing victim Marc Fucarile, who lost one leg in the attack and is battling to keep the other.

The Museum of Fine Arts will waive its admission fee for the entire Memorial Day weekend as part of an honoring of bombing victims and the city.

Margery Eagan wants a fund for victims of street violence, not just terrorism.

BEACON HILL

Charter school advocates call on legislators to raise the cap on charters.

At a State House hearing, Sen. Eileen Donoghue of Lowell and others push her bill to establish a commission to explore bringing the Olympics to Massachusetts, the Sun reports.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

A speech contest winner from Lawrence takes a shot at Boston magazine’s characterization of his hometown. “City of the Damned? I prefer to look at it as the city of the damn proud,” he tells the Eagle-Tribune.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

A new GAO report says states and municipalities are going to face financial constraints for some time, Governing reports.

Sen. Marco Rubio writes in the National Review what he thinks the lessons in the Boston Marathon bombings mean in the war on terror, an oped that sounds very much like a presidential position paper.

A new report shows military sex assaults are a growing epidemic, prompting US Rep. Niki Tsongas of Massachusetts to call the situation “a deep-rooted cultural failure,” the Associated Press reports (via the Sun). Earlier this year, CommonWealth spotlighted Tsongas’s work on the issue.

Delaware becomes the 11th state to allow gay marriage, NECN reports.

Sen. Patrick Leahy’s push to include gay couples in the compromise immigration bill could split the so-called “Gang of Eight” and scuttle the measure.

The American Spectator defends Mitt Romney’s marital and biblical advice to graduates at Southern Virginia University.

ELECTIONS

Nate Silver is skeptical about Gabriel Gomez’s chances to beat Ed Markey in the US Senate race in Massachusetts. Markey goes up with his post-primary television ad buy — a move the Herald reads as smelling of fear.

Republican Mark Sanford, the former South Carolina governor, caps a political comeback by defeating his Democratic rival by 10 points to capture a US House seat, NPR reports (via WBUR).

Former state rep Mike Cahill announces a run for mayor of Beverly to replace Bill Scanlon, the Salem News reports.

The Fall River Herald News is pushing state officials to set the special primary to replace former rep David Sullivan for June 25, the same day as the special US Senate election, before time runs out.

CASINOS

A Maryland casino developer proposes a $200 million slots parlor for Boxborough.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

EMC, the Hopkinton-based data-storage giant, will cut 1,004 jobs as part of a cost-costing move.

Hull voters approved zoning changes that they hope will revitalize Nantasket Beach where there are blocks of vacant lots and empty storefronts along the strip.

HEALTH CARE

Steward Health Care’s losses narrow in 2012 to $33 million, CommonWealth reports.

TRANSPORTATION

Road deaths in the US increased in 2012 for the first time since 2006, Governing reports.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

The Globe reports that Bishop Robert McManus of Worcester, who is charged with drunken driving and leaving the scene of an accident in Narragansett, Rhode Island, was so wobbly during a field sobriety test that the officer administering it cut it short, fearing the Catholic diocese leader would fall and injure himself, according to the police report.

The White House is preparing to push a sweeping wiretap law overhaul that would make it easier for the FBI to conduct online surveillance.

Meet the Author

Gabrielle Gurley

Senior Associate Editor, CommonWealth

About Gabrielle Gurley

Gabrielle covers several beats, including mass transit, municipal government, child welfare, and energy and the environment. Her recent articles have explored municipal hiring practices in Pittsfield, public defender pay, and medical marijuana, and she has won several national journalism awards for her work. Prior to coming to CommonWealth in 2005, Gabrielle wrote for the State House News Service, The Boston Globe, and other publications. She launched her media career in broadcast journalism with C-SPAN in Washington, DC. The Philadelphia native holds degrees from Boston College and Georgetown University.

About Gabrielle Gurley

Gabrielle covers several beats, including mass transit, municipal government, child welfare, and energy and the environment. Her recent articles have explored municipal hiring practices in Pittsfield, public defender pay, and medical marijuana, and she has won several national journalism awards for her work. Prior to coming to CommonWealth in 2005, Gabrielle wrote for the State House News Service, The Boston Globe, and other publications. She launched her media career in broadcast journalism with C-SPAN in Washington, DC. The Philadelphia native holds degrees from Boston College and Georgetown University.

MEDIA

The Cohasset Board of Selectmen voted to suspend its quest to get the names of anonymous commenters on the Patriot Ledger website who have been posting nasty things about the town and officials.