Thursday, September 08, 2005

esmie chronicles begin

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a little entry about Esmie Tseng, the teenage blogger who stands accused of stabbing her mother to death. Then, earlier this week, I got an e-mail from a group called "Friends of Esmie" saying only, "If you are interested in helping Esmie please drop us an email." I wrote back saying I was interested, but that i wanted to know more about what they're doing. I definitely don't want to support folks who are doing stuff like this.

I haven't heard back. But the e-mail sort of riled up my feelings about that case, as did the longish story in the Star Wednesday. The feelings are conflicted, and more than just a little bit embarrassing, because what I feel is a sense of loss, real loss, like the kind where you're pissed because you have no power to turn back time. And that's embarrasing because I don't even know her. It's just that her story clashes up against some internal sense of justice I'm holding onto -- not necessarily because she appears to be going to trial against ambitious and aggressive prosecuting attorneys, but because her story goes against the larger narrative I have for things, even things beyond my circle of influence.

So what I'm going to do is cover the trial as a reporter. But with a twist. Since this is a blog, it seems I have not only the freedom but the obligation to be utterly subjective.

As with any story I've ever done, I'm going in with a bias and preconceptions (which, as always, I'm eager and willing -- indeed hoping -- to be disabused of). Unlike the other stories, I'm not going to try to hide it.

In this case, my bias going in is the strong opinion that Esmie ought not be tried as an adult, nor for first-degree murder, and that she shouldn't go to prison for life, and (so long as I'm being longwinded and unrealistic here) that she be sentenced to a program or facility that truly is rehabilitive.

It's kind of an experiment, and more like it might follow.

Ultimately I hope that reporting a story such as this on a blog will allow readers to connect with it on a deeper level, because the reporting is a personal quest. There's no paycheck involved, no editor, no demographic demands -- just me and my own drive, and I can take it wherever the hell I want. I can -- and probably will -- cite Foucault's genealogy of prisons, and other dense philosophical works about so-called justice. I can, and will, compare Esmie's story to my own history growing up in the suburbs. And I'll try to put myself in the prosecutors' shoes as well, matching their professional drive with mine as a reporter (like when I was investigating City Hall and always eager to "nail someone").

The drving, unasked questions might be less Why did Esmie do it? and more Where am I in Esmie? And I'm gonna gamble here and say this will make the story more universal, not narcissistic. Because like Terrence told us, "I am human; nothing human is alien to me."

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