Last month, we published a piece about Rebecca Grossman, a Hidden Hills socialite facing vehicular homicide charges after the Mercedes she was driving struck and killed two young brothers in Westlake Village. Not everyone was happy with that story. Indeed, we’ve received hundreds of irate emails from readers. Some objected to the tone of the piece, perceiving our interview with Grossman as too sympathetic. Others complained that we photographed her for the article—the picture, they insisted, was too flattering. At least one reader felt we were too harsh on Grossman. That’d be Grossman herself, who threatened to sue us after the story came out.
I could spend the rest of this editor’s note defending the story line by line—pointing out that its tone was painstakingly neutral, that the photograph of Grossman was deliberately unglamorous, that the article made abundantly clear that the true victims of this tragedy were the two little boys and their surviving family, whose ongoing struggle to find justice in court was also a large part of the piece—but I don’t think it would do any good. Because what most people seem to be objecting to isn’t really the content of the story but the fact that we published any sort of interview with Grossman at all. Why give a heedless socialite whose recklessness behind the wheel resulted in such a horrible calamity any sort of coverage in our pages?
There’s a pretty simple answer to that question: journalism.
Rebecca Grossman is a well-known personality in Los Angeles—she’s married to one of the most revered doctors in the city, Peter H. Grossman, founder of the Grossman Burn Foundation and whose father founded the Grossman Burn Center, where Anne Heche died and Jay Leno was treated—who is about to go on trial for murder. That alone makes her a figure of intense public interest. Yes, she did an indisputably terrible thing. She may end up spending decades behind bars because of it. Nobody writing for this magazine is suggesting that she should receive any leniency or sympathy. But nobody can deny that all of the above also makes Grossman a fascinating subject, a cautionary tale illustrating how just one monumentally stupid moment in an otherwise blessed life can destroy not only innocent victims’ lives but also your own.
The job of journalism isn’t to interview just good people but also those who’ve taken a terribly wrong turn.
Some readers felt we were giving Grossman a “platform” to spin her side of the story. I don’t see it that way. I think we were navigating the nuances of a heartbreaking and, for sure, infuriating tragedy. And that’s the job of journalism—to interview and write about not just good people doing good works but also those who’ve taken a terribly wrong turn, whether it’s a socialite driving her Mercedes in the suburbs or a politician who gets caught taking bribes or an inner-city kid who ends up shooting a cop. All of them have backstories worthy of exploring. That’s our job. Your job, readers, is to listen to what these people have to say and make up your own minds about what you think of it.
Maer Roshan, Editor-in-Chief
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