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The Full Story of Bill Young's Life

Jan 24, 2014

Credit United States Congress

When long-time congressmen Bill Young died last year, the tributes were as expected for such a Tampa Bay area political icon.

The Speaker of the House attended the funeral. So did other members of the Congress Young served for so many years.

Young's family was a also a major topic of discussion.

But not his whole family.

Young had a whole other family with his first wife, who he divorced in order to marry his then-pregnant former secretary.

The children of Young's first family came forward recently in a "Tampa Bay Times" story and it was something of a shocking read.

How could this major chunk of Young's life -- the year's when he rose to prominence as a state legislator and congressman -- be so overlooked in media coverage of his funeral?

Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute's "Sense-Making Project" said, "I think you have to go back to when it happened, which was 1984. There was a time in the 50s, 60s and 70s when journalists didn't cover the private lives of politicians at all. You get into the 80s and that is starting to change.  But when Bill Young divorced his first wife, his children were grown and it really didn't rise to the level of scandal."

However, you could reasonably expect to have this part of Young's life mentioned in all the stories filed during the time of his death and funeral. Did reporters ignore these facts, and did they just not know about it?

"I do not know the answer to that question, but if they did not know about it, that was not very good reporting. And if they ignored it, that would be inappropriate," said McBride.

McBride explained that all the facts count, even at the time of a prominent person's death.

She said, "There's an instinct when you're writing an obituary to be overly positive because the guy's dead and who says bad things about dead people? Well, journalists do when they're accurately trying to report on the range of an individual's life."