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AP can’t keep class warfare out of tragic airplane story

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By Michelle Malkin  •  March 23, 2009 05:41 PM

For crying out loud. Seven children, all under the age of 9, died in a horrific plane crash in Montana over the weekend along with their devoted parents and the pilot.

This is how the Associated Press chose to write its lead sentence reporting the tragedy:

BUTTE, Mont. (AP) – Three California families headed to a retreat for the ultrarich were among the 14 victims of a plane crash in Montana.

Was the reference to the “ultrarich” retreat necessary? What is the relevance of how much it costs to stay at the ski resort the families were headed to — and why does it belong in the lede? How dehumanizing. And gratuitously callous. You have to search out local coverage to escape the AP’s class warfare-tinged coverage. From the St. Helena Star:

Five members of a St. Helena family died Sunday in a Montana plane crash in which authorities say there were no survivors.

Dr. Erin Jacobson, his wife, Amy, and their children Taylor, 4, Ava, 3, and Jude, 2, were en route to Bozeman to visit friends and family.
“They were going to Bozeman for the week — (Amy’s) parents were already there,” said Elizabeth Naylor of Angwin, a close friend of the Jacobson family for the past three years.

“They were extraordinary, wonderful, giving and kind. Our daughters grew up together. My daughter asked today if we could have their daughter over for a play date this week, and we told them we could after they got back.”

The Jacobsons, who lived on Pratt Avenue, were active in the Montessori Family Center in St. Helena.

“Erin was an eye doctor, a surgeon, in St. Helena and Napa, and Amy was a dental hygienist in Angwin, but she was a full-time mom to three children,” said Naylor. “Everybody in town knows them — they were really, truly an amazing family.”

More details you won’t learn from the “ultrarich”-obsessed AP come from the Napa Valley Register:

Six of the seven adults who died Sunday afternoon in a plane crash in Butte, Mont. had attended Pacific Union College, a Seventh-day Adventist liberal arts college in Angwin.

“We are deeply saddened by this tragedy, and our prayers are with the victims’ families. This is a very personal tragedy for Pacific Union College and our local community,” noted Dr. Richard Osborn, PUC president. “There are many on our campus who remember them as students. Our alumni are also grieving this loss, as are many in the St. Helena and Angwin communities who knew and loved the Jacobson family.”

Dr. Erin Jacobson graduated from PUC in 1996, while his wife, Amy Feldkamp Jacobson, attended PUC from 1993-95. The Jacobsons and their three preschool-aged children died in the plane crash. Erin Jacobson was an opthamologist with the Eye Care Center of Napa Valley and worked at St. Helena Hospital and Queen of the Valley Medical Center.

Vanessa Feldkamp Pullen, Amy Jacobson’s sister, attended PUC, 1989-90. Vanessa Pullen’s husband Michael attended PUC from 1988-91. The Pullens and their two children died in the plane crash. The Pullens lived in Gault in northern California.

Brent Ching graduated from PUC in 1993. His wife, Kristen Mautz Ching, attended PUC from 1996-97. The Chings and their two children died in the crash. Brent Ching was a dentist in Chico and the family lived in Durham.

And from the Chico Enterprise-Record:

“The kindest, sweetest people I’ve ever met,” is how four-year friend Jason Bougie remembers the Ching family. Calling himself a “close, personal friend that vacations with them,” Bougie got to know the family through his profession, became friends, and later began going to Ching for dental services…

…”We were going on a vacation with all the grandkids,” said Bud Feldkamp, who lost two daughters and their families in the crash. “They were all excited about skiing.”

Feldkamp leased the airplane that crashed. He said he, his wife and another daughter had driven to Montana for the vacation.

“We were at the entrance to the Yellowstone Club when I got a cell phone call” from a nephew, Feldkamp said. “He saw it on CNN. He said, ‘Nobody survived.’ And we knew it was our plane.”

Sweet, kind families. Hard-working parents. Beloved by their communities.

But most newsworthy, in the minds of AP editors: ULTRARICH.

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