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.
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.
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