Kalamazoo College's Student Newspaper
Maggie Kane Co-Editor-in-Chief
“Accelerated intimacy” is the term journalist Isabel Wilkerson uses to describe the relationship between a journalist and their source. When writing a profile, journalists must quickly get to the point where their source feels comfortable enough to open up about a topic. I started thinking about this last week when I heard about two murders that took place in Kalamazoo on Oct. 20.
The incidents brought me back to this summer’s fatal beating of Bob Medema, former owner of Emporium Antiques. The Kalamazoo Gazette reported that Medema was found dead in his house on the morning of Aug. 11. Further investigation revealed that he was attacked with a baseball bat in a targeted robbery.
I had spent several evenings at Medema’s store in the spring, interviewing him about his store and about himself for a profile piece; the assignment was for a narrative journalism class. From our interview, he seemed like a friendly man. At one point when I was visiting him at his store, he bought a set of badly-built kitchen benches because he knew the men selling needed the money.
“If I lose money just giving it away, I don’t feel bad,” he told me, adding that people need to learn how to give stuff away.
Medema kept a haphazard store, but liked to set furniture out in pairs, giving a slight sense of order to the three crammed buildings that housed his antiques collection. Medema was an open man who was used to being interviewed, so it didn’t take long for me to establish this intimacy that Wilkerson writes about.
What I realized, especially after the fact, is that writing a story about Bob drew me closer to Kalamazoo, a city I consider a detached temporary home. When Medema was murdered, I was at home in Minneapolis for summer break; I learned about it when my friend and co-editor Emily Townsend mentioned it in a text.
I spent days obsessively checking Google news results for information about the case. At the time, I was shocked that something like this could happen to Bob. I felt as though he was an acquaintance, though our interactions occurred over a short period of time in the context of journalism reporting. What I realize now, though, is that my distress over the death extended beyond the immediate event.
I worried for the city of Kalamazoo, a place I now realize I have developed a different, gradual kind of intimacy with. Last Saturday’s murders brought these feelings to the surface again. Tragedies like these make me worry about the safety of the community, and because of this I realize that I can no longer consider myself an unaffected outsider.