It is one of the cardinal rules of journalism: All news is local. Thus, newspapers and television station here in America are now moving into a new stage of coverage of the horrors in Mumbia. It is time to find the local angles, the local hooks -- "sidebars" in journalism lingo -- that bring this global story home to readers.
India, of course, is a culture soaked in religion. It should not be surprising that this massacre is soaked in religious content and imagery, even though the mainstream press has been slow -- as young master Daniel noted -- to highlight or define this part of the story. No one is asking for speculation. The goal is to report who has claimed responsibility and to report who authorities in India are investigating.
Anyway, India is a culture soaked in all kinds of religion and spirituality, although Hinduism is the majority faith. If the terrorists were looking for Americans, Westerners and Jews, they were also sure to find Americans who were in India because of their interest in Eastern religions. The Washington Post offered one sidebar on such a case, producing a story that stressed the human detail but offered few facts about the spiritual journey involved. Here's the top of the story by Kendra Nichols and Emily Wax:
Twelve years ago, Alan Scherr committed his life to meditation and spirituality, moving his family to the Synchronicity spiritual community in Faber, Va., about 30 miles southwest of Charlottesville in the Blue Ridge mountains.
It was that spiritual journey that led the former art professor at the University of Maryland to be in Mumbai Wednesday evening, eating a late dinner with his 13-year-old daughter at the Oberoi Hotel, when armed gunmen attacked. Both Alan and Naomi Scherr were killed. ...
The Scherrs were among 25 participants from the Synchronicity community who had traveled to a program in Mumbai. Four other members of the group were injured in the shooting, the Associated Press reported.
Clearly, the key to understanding this story is this: What is the Synchronicity community? What was "the program" that drew these believers to Mumbai? (Click here for the community's tributes to their lost loved ones.)
The story offers straight, unfiltered language from Synchronicity. The question is whether this language has any meaning to the average newspaper reader:
"Alan committed most of his adult life to meditation, spirituality and conscious living," the statement from Synchronicity said. "He was a passionate Vedic astrologer and meditation teacher who inspired many people to begin a journey of self-awareness and meditation. He was committed to making a positive difference in the world and devoted himself to the community he lived in." ...
In an essay in the Web magazine Realization in 2000, Alan Scherr described his journey from college professor and follower of Eastern meditation to a member and full-time staff member of the Synchronicity community, led by Master Charles, described as a contemporary mystic and master of meditation.After listening to Master Charles speak in 1994, Scherr wrote, he and his wife decided to join the community, which promotes high-tech meditation and a holistic lifestyle. They moved to Faber in 1996.
"For me, real freedom means living life in each moment, as it unfolds, without concepts or conditions." Scherr wrote. "It is a life very few choose because it requires an orientation and re-prioritization of life that is, in many ways, antithetical to our modern Western culture. And yet, it is always available whenever one is truly focused upon self-mastery. The miracle of this life continues to unfold for me on daily basis."
Fascinating. But what does this mean?
Uh, "High-tech meditation"? According to the group's website, this means:
Synchronicity Contemporary High-Tech Meditation, created by Master Charles Cannon, is the foundation of the Synchronicity Paradigm Lifestyle Model, which is designed to be practiced on a daily basis. This contemporary form of meditation utilizes Synchronicity's proprietary Holodynamic Vibrational Entrainment Technology (HVET), to bring precision to the meditative experience. It is available in the form of Alpha, Theta, and Delta CD's that "meditate you" by balancing the brainwaves and delivering a precision meditation experience -- one that is accurate and consistent. Such precision meditation delivers greater balance and wholeness.
Now, I have no response to that. I say that not to mock this group or its beliefs and, please understand, I do not suggest that it was the duty of the Post to dig into the beliefs of this community in a way that in any way undercuts this current tragedy.
What I am saying is the newspaper printed a story that I -- maybe it's just me -- cannot understand. There is little or no way to understand what the words mean, in the context offered to the reader. Is that good? For journalists, the bottom line question is this: Does the story do what it must do, as a local sidebar about these people who tragically lost their lives, in part because of who they were and where they were? What did they believe? Why were they there?
I want to be able to understand something about what happened. How about you?
IMAGE: The art of brain waves. Brain waves and modern media.