CLIPS: Droves of reporters put Amish in spotlight they usually shun (10/03/06)

Of The Patriot-News

NICKEL MINES — John Fisher, who the hundreds of journalists here knew was Amish because he was wearing a straw hat, was fielding questions from the
Baltimore Sun and New York Daily News when his cell phone appeared to ring.

He excused himself and left the reporters searching for more straw hats and bonnets to interview. Later, he told The Patriot-News he would sometimes pretend to get a call to get away from the bothersome questions of reporters.

“There’s about 250 too many,” he said when asked what he thought about the national media attention in the small town.

“I know it’s news,” said Sam Fisher, who manages Nickel Mines Auction House, where police and the media set up a home base, “but it’s something like overkill. It’s frustrating, let’s just put it that way.”

Those who dared to walk by the throngs of journalists wearing anything but professional garb were quickly snapped up for interviews, sometimes with dozens of news organizations at once. An Amish woman named Irene, who did not give reporters her last name, had six microphones in front of her as she explained her religious beliefs.

Several photographers snapped photos when a horse-drawn buggy drove by.

The Lancaster and Harrisburg media were on scene, but so were reporters from Montreal, the United Kingdom, Russia and Japan. CNN, MSNBC and Fox News followed the story all day. ABC recorded a “Good Morning America” segment.

More than 50 trucks with satellites atop their roofs filled the roadsides and nearby parking lots. Television reporters spoke in front of a long line of cameras, with a country hillside or the distant schoolhouse as backgrounds.

Sam Fisher said the reporters usually were polite. He minded only when they stuck cameras in his face, he said.

Jacob King, who is Amish, wore a stoic face as he took questions from several reporters.

“Does it make you more distrustful of outsiders?”

“Do you think there should be more security in the school?”

“Would you have ever expected something like this to happen?”

“Does it make you angry?”

He offered short responses to each question. For the final question, a reporter asked: “To people who are completely unfamiliar with your lifestyle, what do you want them to know about your community?”

King replied: “That we’re like everyone else.”

  • Zach

    Hey there Mr. Victor!

    I either didn’t know or just plain forgot that you covered that shooting. Growing up 15 minutes away and working about a mile or so down the road from that school made that whole thing so personal. Through the entirety of the coverage, my biggest worry was that the world would get the wrong impression about the Amish and Mennonite communities, their admirable lifestyles, and the distinguishing characteristics of each. Overall, I think the news media got it right.

    The only problem was that the news media was there in the manner you describe. The amount of respect provided for personal privacy should be quite different between that of a girl in Aruba whose parents won’t stay away from reporters and a small, religiously observant farming community affected by such a tragedy.

    With every question that was asked of an Amish or Mennonite person affected, you could see in their eyes that they just wanted to be left alone. They had no desire to bring attention to a cause, and no need to have their voices heard or to share their pain like so many people admittedly do in painful situations.

    Anyway, great article. One of the most realistic ones on the shooting that I have read.