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Ronald Poppo: victim of tabloid media

The media, until it recently tired itself out, wouldn’t get over its sudden bloodlust for selling papers to gullible consumers, and continuously threw around the zombie angle of the case. Several popular titles included “zombie attack, Miami cannibal,” or “naked cannibal attack, zombie.” None of these stories focused on the victim, but rather focused on the possibility of a zombie outbreak, and the fact that cannibalism had occurred – profiting on the shock value, rather than reporting actual facts.

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By Alexei Summers (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: July 4, 2012

On May 26 in Miami, a man named Rudy Eugene woke up, kissed his girlfriend good-bye, and went to the beach for a Memorial Day beach party. He then proceeded towards the nearest causeway, stripping off his clothes en-route, and, according to witnesses, began to viciously pummel and devour the face of Mr. Ronald Poppo, a homeless man who had been sleeping at the time.

It’s been over a month since then. Mr. Poppo miraculously survived. It was originally projected that 80 per cent of his face had been eaten off. This estimate has now been re-examined, and changed to 50 per cent. He lies in a hospital bed in Jackson Memorial Hospital, where he is undergoing a series of facial reconstructive surgeries.

A donation fund was set up in his name at the hospital, but despite the large amount of coverage by the press, only $15,000 has been donated. It is projected that his medical expenses will be in the range of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

It seems the citizens of America not only reject socialized healthcare, but also reject helping their fellow man in time of need. Healthcare for this type of case would be unaffordable for the typical American, let alone a homeless one. However, in a surprising move, the Miami-Dade County has stated it will be paying for Mr. Poppo’s surgeries.

The media, until it recently tired itself out, wouldn’t get over its sudden bloodlust for selling papers to gullible consumers, and continuously threw around the zombie angle of the case. Several popular titles included “zombie attack, Miami cannibal,” or “naked cannibal attack, zombie.” None of these stories focused on the victim, but rather focused on the possibility of a zombie outbreak, and the fact that cannibalism had occurred – profiting on the shock value, rather than reporting actual facts.

Weeks later, these same articles were being rehashed by different writers for the exact same papers, spewing out the same substandard headlines typical of amateur yellow journalism – a sensationalist practice that has long since been done away with by most respectable publications. The practice involves eye-catching, radical headlines that grab reader’s attention so that they purchase more copies of the paper, though there is little substance within the content of the article.

This was a heavily-perpetuated theme in the case concerning Mr. Poppo. Many news articles were guilty of practicing this type of journalism – today only really used in tabloid magazines to lure in naive demographics. The fault falls on the reporters, and their editors, for allowing this sort of thing to be published at all. They are not news articles. They are a sham. They do not report news, and they do not report in any one’s interest but their own. They breach the basic principles of journalism.

And yet, little is known about Poppo, and it was only in recent weeks that anything further had developed into his story in the press. It seems Poppo was attending a prestigious school in Florida before becoming homeless in the 1970s. He is seen in a yearbook photo sporting short trimmed hair, popular at the time, with a clean shaven face, wearing a suit and tie.

It’s not surprising that there was more focus on the zombie aspect of the story, rather than on Mr. Poppo. Zombie culture has seen a resurgence in its fandom in recent years, after many video games and films were based on the possibility of a zombie apocalypse. And for the first while after the initial reports were released, it seemed like the comment sections of online new articles were filled with people concerned with their own safety, or concerned about the possibility of a zombie apocalypse.

While Mr. Poppo was sitting in a hospital with his face a messy, bloody pulp, all the regular clowns on the Internet comment sections could do was sit there and crack jokes, and worry about themselves. Not one of humanity’s finest moments.

The articles concerning the now dubbed “Miami cannibal attack” are still spewing the same headlines, even now that a month has passed. A few papers have finally begun to dig deeper – yet there has been little reporting on Poppo’s status. The few reports that have been released seem to be mostly from the Jackson Memorial Hospital itself, via it’s Twitter feed. If you want to look into Ronald Poppo’s medical fund, there is a place on the hospital’s website for that as well. Meanwhile, Jackson Memorial Hospital has stated that Mr. Poppo is doing well, and that he is in good spirits despite all things – he is even making jokes, and lightening moods around the hospital.

It’s no thanks to the media.

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