This month, the Post Bulletin and other local news media revisited one of the city’s most horrific crimes, the Brom family murders, which occurred 30 years ago.
In his lead story to the coverage, local news editor Jeff Pieters wrote, "The 30 years since the Brom family murders have done little, if anything, to answer the looming question: Why? Why did David Brom, a 16-year-old high school sophomore, take an ax in the middle of the night and kill his parents, his 13-year-old sister and 11-year-old brother?"
That question remains unanswered and is one reason why the killings on Feb. 18, 1988, will resurface in the media on major anniversaries for years to come.
To a fault, the PB typically has avoided big retrospectives on the event. Check our online archives and you may be surprised at how infrequently we’ve told the story over the past 20 years. We’re not interested in lurid, tabloidy coverage. The murders remain a haunting and painful memory for many in Rochester and we try to be sensitive to that.
Jeff and the newsroom received a lot of positive comments about the coverage on Feb. 17, including comments from people who either are too young or are new to Rochester and hadn’t heard of the case.
One reader, Jean Burrington, questioned why we and other local media had to bring it up at all: "I am appalled at all the hype the Rochester Post Bulletin and KTTC are giving the Brom murders. Why, after 30 years, and thinking about what has just occurred in Parkland, Fla., would you want to resurface such a tragedy?
"The media has enough bad news every day without bringing this up again and possibly giving some unstable mind an idea."
As Jean notes, other media also had coverage of the 30th anniversary of the murders, as they typically do on major anniversaries. They’ll likely have 40th anniversary stories this summer as we will, on the 1978 floods that caused widespread damage and several fatalities in Rochester.
We’ll have a look back at the end of World War I, a hundred years ago this fall, and a few years ago we did a weekly page that looked back at the Rochester area’s involvement 150 years ago in the Civil War.
That’s the nature of news — our archives are part of the collective memory of the Rochester region, and with the Brom murders, that’s part of our history. The challenge is to find new ways to tell the story, respectfully and with sensitivity, and to put it in perspective.