Earlier in December, I was introduced to Christine Chubbuck’s story through the 2016 movie titled Christine starring Rebecca Hall. Having watched the trailer, I thought this was a journalism story of a woman struggling in the working business. When I did more research, I learned that Christine died by suicide and was the first journalist to ever die in such a way while on air. After this, I needed to know more about Christine not because of how she died, but I needed to know about her life and how it led her to this outcome. Now that I know her story, here are my thoughts.
Starting with her struggle of human connection. Christine didn’t have much of a social life, except for when it came to her family in which the closest friends, she had was her family. Her social especially suffered, when it came to finding love. She struggled so much that she formed her club in high school called the Dateless Wonder Club according to All That’s Interesting Christine did get lucky eventually, even if it was for a short while. “…she had two very serious relationships. One was a guy who died in a car accident.” Greg Chubbuck explained in the Sun “She was still a teenager, and he was in his twenties. Then later she had a romance with another man who worked in television with her.” The second relationship ended because her dad didn’t approve of her dating an older man who was Jewish.
I can relate to Christine’s struggle with human connection. I’ve never had a love life myself either or a boyfriend. Christine died a 29-year-old virgin, I’m a 27-year-old virgin. Christine wanted to be married with children, I hope to find one day my companion myself. The difference is that I didn’t make a big deal about not having a boyfriend, I just focused on my schoolwork and excelled academically. Even today I still don’t make a big deal about not being in a relationship, I’m more focused on finding a job specifically at the digital media online news organization called The Social Talks. However, having a husband and children meant everything to Christine not just because societal norms of the 70s required it because she wanted to feel happy and fulfilled. I wish Christine had found better ways to find fulfilment and meaning in her life with the family she already had, with her parents and brothers.
Next is Christine’s struggles with her job. After finishing school, Christine managed to get a job as a reporter for the news WXLY-TV. She was very dedicated to her job and wanted to create meaningful work, but her boss Bob Nelson wanted better ratings for his network. So, he insisted on having his staff team produce news stories about violence, hoping that it would attract viewers. “WXLT-TV was a makeshift operation, struggling financially, scraping by with old equipment and an inexperienced, underpaid staff expected to work around the clock.” Staff and Contributing Writer Carolyn Kormann stated in this source. “Hoping to increase ratings, the owner of the station pressured his reporters for juicier, more sensational stories—“If it bleeds, it leads.” Chubbuck hated this approach, clashed with the news director, and grew increasingly angry and frustrated as her features were overlooked or bumped by so-called harder news.”
As a writer and blogger, myself, I felt bad knowing that Christine felt miserable with her job even though she was very successful at it. I feel bad knowing that Christine never had a voice at the workplace and wasn’t treated like she was allowed to have one. She never got to express her thoughts or beliefs, nor was she allowed to write about topics that she was passionate about, but instead was instructed to write about things that didn’t interest her which furthered her emptiness and unfulfillment.
It makes me feel grateful to be working as a writer for both The Social Talks and the Verge of Independence Project: Multimedia Autism Advocacy, which allows me to freely write about my interests and express my thoughts, beliefs, desires, and voice. I’m allowed to have the freedom of creativity, whereas Christine wasn’t. The way that I see journalism, is that it should feel like a passion project, wherein everything you create as a writer and reporter is a work of art worth remembering. When you take that away, it suddenly becomes an undesirable chore that you do for money and not love.
Finally, Christine’s last and biggest struggle is with her mental health. Christine was an unfortunate individual who not only suffered in silence, but whenever she tried to reach out for help no one took it seriously enough to listen. “Despite the fact that she sought mental health care from a psychiatrist for depression in the weeks leading up to her demise, her ongoing talk of suicide was not taken seriously.” Stated by an unknown writer from History Daily. “She didn't disclose this to her colleagues for fear that it would cost her job, so the offhand remarks she made about buying a gun and harming herself was taken as a joke among her coworkers.”
This is what broke my heart the most because even though Christine was depressed with suicidal thoughts, at least you could see that she was trying to save herself. Unfortunately, no one took her seriously enough to know how much she needed help until it was too late. Had someone responded to the red flags sooner, it’s possible that Christine’s life would have taken a better turn.
The reason why I’m writing about Christine Chubbuck is because I don’t want her to be ignored anymore. She spent too much of her life being ignored, when it came to love, when it came to journalism, and especially when it came to her mental health. Christine Chubbuck’s life should for once be recognized, acknowledged, taken seriously, and never forgotten again.
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