Thursday, October 04, 2007

Fire and brimstone

Seering hot magma was still raining down from the volcanic news of Wendy Knowlton-Cook’s arrest, as the cauldron of talk-show vitriol roiled violently across the AM dial Wednesday. Hand over fist, the callers inundated the claptrap morning commute programs with their take on the latest headlines: Derby-dad girl’s sex-drug shocker; kids in car during sex, drug bust.

Just a day earlier, a Schenectady City Court judge uncharacteristically weighed in on the allegations against the daughter of Funny Cide owner Jack Knowlton before setting her bail at $15,000. Though confessing she deserved a fair trial and is presumed innocent until proven guilty, Judge Vincent Versaci felt compelled to castigate the shammed woman.

“I have never seen such atrocities in my life, and that’s saying a lot” he said. “Congratulations.”

Outside the courtroom, it was a sharp reporter from CBS 6 News that asked the tough questions of a cuffed, bedraggled and teary-eyed Knowlton-Cook as she was loaded into a sheriff’s van.

“Are you a bad mother, Wendy,” she asked in a moment of journalistic brilliance that is sure to draw a Pulitzer nomination.

During the morning commute the next day, Paul Vandenburgh cited the CBS 6 report as “the best” among the continuing television coverage. He was left almost speechless as he mentally replayed the sum total of the allegations and Knowlton-Cook’s background as a small business proprietor in upscale white-bred Saratoga Springs. Amazing how someone like that could just fall into the gutter, he opined; simply amazing.

Just a few twists of the dial away, Al Rooney filled the AM airways with one hateful call after the next, all saying essentially the same thing: lock this bitch up and throw away the key.

“I can’t believe that judge would set bail so low on someone like this,” shouted one caller. “I mean, she should be held on a million dollars at least.”

Meanwhile, television and press reporters rifled through the tattered remnants of Knowlton-Cook’s life. She was the perfect one to strap to the whipping post and give a good thrashing: the drug-crazed daughter of a local celebrity, a long rap sheet with six misdemeanor arrests and perhaps the most salacious of story to come down the pike in recent times. The stench of sensationalism was enough to drag in even the New York Post, a paper that would forget there’s part of the state north of the Tapan Zee were it not for a relic they have stowed in the Capitol Building.

Among local newspapers, the Times Union carried the largest whip while boasting the least substance in their articles. Like most news agencies, the newspaper didn’t make the celebrity connection until Knowlton-Cook’s arraignment Tuesday. Their follow-up article contained much of the same information their initial coverage listed. And in a third piece, all the same news bandied in the first two articles was relisted with a sprinkling of new information: surprise, surprise, surprise, she had a drug record in Florida.

Oddly enough, the only paper to truly capture the tragic nature of this mother’s gut-wrenching descent into the world of drug addiction was The Saratogian. After first ignoring Knowlton-Cook’s local connection, the paper was granted an unusually candid interview with the Knowlton family, something that all the other news sources failed to do for whatever reason. In discussing the case, Jack and Dorthy Knowlton acknowledged their daughter’s problems, but didn’t excuse her behavior.

“She put the children in danger,” he told the paper. “Let’s not gloss over that. Society has very strong consequences for that. She'll be suffering those consequences now and in the future.”

They also painted a troubling picture of the woman’s descent, which seemed to begin after her equally disturbed husband succeeded in hanging himself on Halloween nearly four years earlier. They discussed her drug problems, her relapses into substance abuse, the death of her best friend and the cesarean birth of her two-month old son. Still no excuse for her behavior, her father reminded, but a greater and more compelling piece of the big picture.

It’s a horrific picture that the generally fickle public should take a long and introspective look at before blasting Knowlton-Cook into the lower circles of Hades, especially until the allegations against her are vetted in court. Before then, Wendy Knowlton-Cook should be seen as what she is: a very troubled woman in dire need of help and the poster child of the cocaine problem that festers just a few inches beneath Saratoga’s rich upper crust.

8 Comments:

Blogger shotinthedark said...

It's amazing that, we as a society, still have all of these problems after spending billions and billions on the so called Drug War. It doesn't appear that we have gotten much of a bang for our bucks. Who knows if we do decide to spend an additonal 19 million on a new police station maybe these problems will just go away.

9:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good post. Good for straight-arrow Jim Kinney. He's right, Jack Knowlton is a smiler, but in a good way. A decent sort, it would seem.
Further, those lurid details about snorting coke off the baby and such may or may not be true. Some lowlife presumably told the cops, who told the media. And so the next day the judge rants about an "atrocity." Obviously, the woman has troubles and did wrong, and it's a tragedy. The media circus didn't make it better.

1:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

With the old saying, "There for the grace of God go I", we should all realize that this family's problem and struggle is not one that requires judgmental condemnation or pity. These are people. Lets us hope that a caring community can provide a safe environment encouraging recovery. We are capable of that.

3:14 AM  
Blogger Scoop said...

Excellent post, I agree with you 100%.

8:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I fear that the cocaine problem you speak of is even less than a few inches beneath Saratoga's rich upper crust.

This is a problem that cuts through all economic strata; there is disproportionate publicity at the upper end, disproportionate volume of coverage at the low end -but a plague that affects everyone.

1:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well today, the local tabloid editor found time and space in her newspaper, to “not add to or deny” the viscous and ugly details surrounding this news story, by providing the public with the type of sex administered in the front seat of a car. Knowing that sex was provided orally (in case readers were wondering about that) and putting to rest that critical detail (within the files of electronic infinity), we can now realize that this paper is no better than (and normally far worse than), most local print media.

We should all look now, for the Knowleton Report complimenting the previously posted Dryer Report that this journalistic rag publicly wasted space tracking the unfortunate and exploitive details of one of our own's fall from grace. Does this kind of reporting make us feel better about ourselves? Sad isn’t it?

Makes one wonder, "If you sent this editor out in the woods with a pencil and a piece of paper, could she find and write a story?"

4:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Governor Val Keehn excuse me Mayor Val Val Keehn has just released a statement were she blames the McTygue brothers for the tragic Knowlton-Cook’s story of the girl’s downfall through drugs and prostitution. Although not sure of the connection she and her followers are convinced that McTygue is behind it. Keehn was quoted as saying “This as all the marking of the evil Tom I’m sure he had something to do with it”
Corporal Bronner doubts the validity of the charges saying I have answered the ad of every whore in the Metroland and never met Knowlton-Cook’s. When the corporal was asked if she might of advertised on the internet he admitted “I’m not quite sure what the internet is but if it’s bad McTygue is behind it”

12:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Horatio,

Loving the posts recently, but I am afraid that you are doing too much deconstructing and analysis. We want a fun ranting post without too much "larger significance" crap for a change.

*Don't fall into the boring pundit trap.

4:45 PM  

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