Steve Blow, News Sued Over "Suicide" Column

Categories: Media, The Courts
PaulTatum.jpg
Paul Tatum
Courthouse News brings us this lawsuit filed two days ago in Dallas County District Court: John Tatum and Mary Ann Tatum v. The Dallas Morning News, inc. and Steve Blow. At issue is this column, which appeared in the paper on July 12, 2010: "Shrouding suicide in secrecy leaves its danger unaddressed."

In it, the paper's longtime Metro columnist used the death of two men to illustrate how, in his words, "we're down to just one form of death still considered worthy of deception," suicide. He referred specifically to Ted Pillsbury, the former Kimbell Art Museum director who shot himself, though his death was initially reported as a heart attack. Blow then mentioned another, though not by name, only as a "popular high school student" whose "death came from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a time of remorse afterward." Blow also referred to his family's paid obituary that ran in the paper that said the boy had died after sustaining injuries in a car crash.

That student was Jesuit's Paul Tatum, whose parents brought the suit and insist in the complaint that their son had no history of mental illness and that his decision to put a gun to his head in the early morning hours of May 18, 2010, stemmed solely from what they believe to be "a traumatic brain injury from the high-speed accident that stripped his inhibitions, which (coupled with alcohol usage) sent him into an irrational and impaired state that made him unable to appreciate the risks and significance of the handling of a firearm."

John Tatum, of course, is the developer about whom we've written before. And his wife Mary Ann Tatum is a noted local child psychologist. They are saying the paper defamed them by "suggesting that the plaintiffs were somehow responsible for Paul's death by failing to come to terms with his alleged mental illness and that plaintiffs had done a disservice to others by failing to use Paul's obituary as a platform to educate the world about mental illness and suicide."
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33 comments
Juan Valdez
Juan Valdez

These parents are dellusional. BTW, I love how people love to blame and avoid personal responsibility. Sorry for the parents for their loss...but guys...he did it on his own. Im sure I can blame a gizillion businesses/people for how messed up I turned up to be. But in the end...it was all my choice.(Im amazed that I am defending the DMN.)

george gobel
george gobel

RW was being nice by suggesting the paid obit said "died after sustaining injuries in a car crash."  It actually says "died . . . as a result of injuries sustained in a car accident."  I feel horrible, truly horrible, for the parents--but that comes across as a pathological level of denial.

Newshoundforhire
Newshoundforhire

Montemalone, Larry Powell appreciates the mention and notes that he is available for energetic, lively, bright and sometimes funny writing for cash. Hint, hint, corporate America. FYI, it should be noted that both Larry and Tom Siegfried were colleagues of Steve Blow at the old tabloid Fort Worth Press in the early 1970s -- back in the glory days of smelly ink and cheap paper when subscribers were listed under the "asset" column and not under the "expenditure" column. But things change.

Jobu2230
Jobu2230

A. Steve Blow didn't name the kid he was talking aboutB. How do the parents know their son didn't suffer from mental illness?C. Blow never suggested that the parents were to blame for the kid's death.

Sorry for the parents' grief, but there's simply not a lot of merit to this case.

RW1961
RW1961

Wow. What a perfect way for them to ADD publicity (and probably some public scorn) to what otherwise was an extremely private matter. All of probably 15 people in Dallas knew who Blow was talking about. Now everyone does.

Paul S
Paul S

can we just sue the DMN just for the fact that they still have Steve Blow writing for them?

Dominicide
Dominicide

I guess popular Dallas psychologist mom is a little upset because her son drank too much and shot himself. Insisting it not a suicide in a lawsuit doesn't make it any less suicidey. Is this a case of whiney white people unsatisified that reasonable people may disagree with their sanitized version of events? Probably so.  

Loyola Alum
Loyola Alum

The Jesuit Orderin Los Gatos, California published a news release stating that a Jesuit priest tookhis own life. The last Jesuit to see the late Jesuit alive was Fr. JeroldLindner. Fr. Lindner was alleged to have made death threats to children. TheJesuit Order paid $2 million to settle sex abuse allegations against Fr.Lindner.

Heywood U Buzzoff
Heywood U Buzzoff

Can't the DMN just shove out a few bag fulls of the money from their paywall to cover the cost?  Or make Mr. Blow skip a few lunches and send off the saved funds in remittance? 

gabbahey
gabbahey

I got $20 that the DMN settles out of court.

Tad Banyon
Tad Banyon

I guess if they want to spank the News for whatever suffering they felt from the column, that's one way to do it. But there's not a chance in Hell they're going to win that case.

GusMitchem
GusMitchem

Come on, follow the crumbs, car accident, head injury, booze, suside.

They should be sueing the auto industry! Ha maybe the folks that make and install red lights. Its just our society, parents work are busy, etc that leads to lots of regret and denial  

Rodney K.
Rodney K.

Agreed. Taken together with what RW1961 and scottindallas point out above, this looks clearly like a case of the mother attempting to salvage the coverup she hoped would save her career - who would consult a child psychologist who, if wrong, could lose you your child as she lost hers? - all deliberately cloaked in the heavy insulation of reticence to criticize grieving parents. Sadly, this desperate, ill-chosen move only enhances the worst two perceptions, that the son was a suicide and that the mother-psychologist was incompetent in recognizing it beforehand.

MushMouth1
MushMouth1

Nothing happened to it. It is not applicable.Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

NealK
NealK

Exactly.  And if the circumstances hadn't been so tragic, their attorney (who I'd bet is a family friend) would have been more firm about telling them their case was BS.

Yvonnecr
Yvonnecr

that is a point well taken RW1961.  my heart aches for all concerned.

Montemalone
Montemalone

Yeah, bring back Larry Powell, or Tom Siegfried.

scottindallas
scottindallas

Might be trying to protect one's career.  It does seem to reflect poorly that they child psychologist couldn't see this in her own son.  Then, you have the Catholic angle, not sure they smile about suicide.

geez
geez

stand down, asshole. Private business. Nobody's business but the family. It was a paid obit. Have you no compassion?

Syd_Nancy
Syd_Nancy

No, its a case of grieving parents trying to make sense of it all, perhaps misguided sense. Have some compassion why don't cha.

cb
cb

Agree with all of this except "whiney white people" -- race is not a factor in this story and should not be mentioned.

GusMitchem
GusMitchem

Good point,  Not to mention the possible insurance angle. Either personal or professional policies may be at play here, for the family. You know thats why MJ setteld out of court with the first ten or twnety boys that brought suit, the insurace company would rather pay, than pay to defend  

Guest
Guest

I feel very sorry for these people's loss, but their lawsuit sucks up despirately scarce public resources.   

dominicide
dominicide

I suppose I could have chose other words, but I get a little tired of this type of revisionism. I am not a fan of DMN but Blow got it right on this one. And yes, I am asking grieving people to express tragedy in an existentially correct manner by learning and looking deeply in the odd place we are situated in that we know death is part of the human condition, but we just don't want to. And certainly the method should never be a drunken suicide. To these good parents, not only should life not end in a drunken suicide, it simply didn't and to present otherwise leaves no alternative but suit. I have no way of fixing that but I get very irritated at whiny middle-class attempts to avoid any truth whatever in such a public manner. I do, however, apologize if I have offended anyone. 

NealK
NealK

I have great compassion for the family, but they're the ones who chose to file the lawsuit.  The lawsuit is a public record.

Dominicide
Dominicide

Done with this thread, you so completely made my point at least three different ways (large Jeff Stryker dildo to the winner who can find at least two of those points).

Anyway, it's awfully nice up here on my high horse you peasant. 

Jay
Jay

Lol your comments are completely worthless. I'm on no one's side, but the fact that your "arguments" are based entirely in ad hominem attacks immediately drains them of any semblance of credibility. The case makes a claim. Why don't you comment on the claim and demonstrate what is sure to be your vast understanding of the impact of brain damage on human behavior. Yes. I'm rolling my eyes because you could parse such a sentence but would have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. But don't mind facts, just step back up on your high horse and boil potentially complicated science down to nothing. It's what we do in America.

GusMitchem
GusMitchem

Sterotypes exist for  a reason, both good and bad !

Dominicide
Dominicide

Okay, let me explain a little. Yes, denial seems to be a post-modern affliction that effects every demographic. Or, like everything else, denial is more public. Denial is certainly good in some instances. Personal denial. Like terminal cancer patients going on and living like nothing is wrong while enjoying those "sweet spots" that every human has in tragedy. But white middle-class people (my demo) tend to seem even more entitled to their '50's era view that everything certainly is a walk in the park and if they just hang on all again will be exceptional. Without going too much further, I do admit most white-middle class values are annoying. Please keep in mind that romantic relationships with our offspring are a relatively new phenomena.

Guest
Guest

Again, what does "middle-class" have to do with this.  I otherwise agree with your assessment, but race and class have no part in this story.  Poor people deny the truth of their situations all the time (in particular they ignore their own roles in causing their troubles).  So do the rich.  White people do it.  Black people do it.  It is human nature, and your relentless classism and racism serve only to suggest you have lost all perspective and that everyone would be better off ignoring you.  And that would be too bad, because then we wouldn't have the benefit of what otherwise seems to be perfectly reasonable take on the situtation.   

dominicide
dominicide

What part of placing a gun to one's own head and pulling the trigger did I miss?

Billybobbuba
Billybobbuba

Perhaps if you knew the entire story you would think other wise. Yet again someone who hears a few facts rushes to a conclusion and has no idea what they are talking about. There is much more to his death than just a drunken suicide, the article even talked about it, yet you glossed over it.

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