Yes, there's a religion 'ghost' haunting news coverage of Kate Steinle's family and faith


The tragic shooting death of Kathryn "Kate" Steinle on a San Francisco pier some 30 months ago stunned the nation and help inspire some of the rhetoric in Donald Trump's 2016 White House campaign. At the end of November, a San Francisco jury failed to convict Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, who was in the United States illegally, of either murder or manslaughter, setting off another firestorm.

That's the public story. But what of the personal story, the family story? Steinle's family has been vocal about their loss in 2015 and, to an extent, the verdict in Zarate's trial. But, both in 2015 and now, there's what we at GetReligion call a "ghost" -- a missing religion angle -- hovering around the edges of coverage discussing how the family is making sense of the senseless.

The journalism issue: For a profession so keen on detail, I've found multiple instances of reporters not asking the kind of "who, what, when, where, why" questions normally answered in such reporting. It's downright puzzling.

Most recently, the San Francisco Chronicle, via editorial page editor John Diaz, gave us some insights. Even though the piece appeared on the opinion pages, it reads very much like a news feature, since no "opinion" from Diaz or the paper is expressed there.

So here is my question: Where is the hard-news coverage of this angle of the story in the mainstream press, especially in papers out West?

The Chronicle headline stated: "Exclusive: Kate Steinle’s family talks about the anguish and frustration." The passage relevant to this discussion appears more than 20 paragraphs into the story:

Now and then an acquaintance would angrily suggest that Kate’s killer should be executed and ask: “What do you think, Jim?”
“I think Kate’s gone,” Jim said. “We’re not going there. We don’t have hate. Of course we’re deep in our faith and we go to church. We believe Kate’s in a better place, and we think about her on that level. But no, we have no vindictiveness.”

This isn't the first time the Steinle's referenced their faith.

At the end of July 2015, Jim Steinle testified before Congress in support of "Kate's Law," a still unenacted piece of legislation that would stiffen penalties for those with repeat violations of U.S. immigration law -- such as Zerate, who'd been deported multiple times. After his testimony, the family spoke with Fox News' Ainsley Earhardt:

“Our faith is strong, and there’s no room in our hearts for a thought of that person,” he said.
Kate’s mom Liz Sullivan called [the assailant] a pathetic human being.
“I think the forgiveness has to come from God,” she said.

Just after the shooting, KGO-TV, in San Francisco, reported the family was leaning on faith, but didn't say which:

What is important is sharing with the community how much they cared for their daughter, a passionate, charismatic woman who loved her job, loved her city, and loved living life to the fullest.

"She's up there, she's probably running the joint by now. That's the way she was, you know, she's a very take charge girl," Liz Sullivan said.

Even more puzzling was this KGO-TV item about the young woman's funeral:

The memorial service for San Francisco resident and Pleasanton native Kathryn "Kate" Steinle who was fatally shot on San Francisco's Pier 14 last week was held at a winery in Pleasanton Thursday afternoon.

At least four stories in the past 30 months and not a question nor an answer about the specifics of the family's faith. None of the visuals I saw in the television news reports suggested anything specific. Holding a funeral, or even a memorial service, at a winery is a bit out-of-the-norm. You'd think that might provoke a reporter to ask for more information.

The journalism question: Why did no one, seemingly, ask for any more detail? Why is the Steinle family religion so generic in all these reports?

I'm not suggesting the need for a deep dive, but, could we get some identifier, some detail? It's more than idle curiosity, I believe. It's called #Journalism.

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