Some time ago, I blogged about the UC Santa Cruz chancellor, Denice Denton, who was profiled in the SF Chron because of her very questionable expenditures — including getting a cush, pricey job for her lover. It turns out that she wasn't only someone who used power unethically, she was also a very depressed person — a depression that eventually culminated in her taking her life by diving off the top of the luxury apartment building in which her lover lived:
UC Santa Cruz Chancellor Denice Denton, apparently despondent over work and personal issues, died Saturday after she jumped from the roof of a 42-story San Francisco apartment building, police said. Denton's partner, Gretchen Kalonji, has an apartment in the building, property records show.
Denton, a well-regarded engineer, had been named this spring in a series of articles examining UC management compensation. She had been criticized for an expensive university-funded renovation on her campus home, and for obtaining a UC administrative job for Kalonji.
I wouldn't be at all surprised if, right now, there are some very guilty people at the Chronicle (editors and writers), all feeling that they drove this poor woman to her death. If they do feel this way, I think I'd have to counsel them against taking on this moral responsibility. There is no question but that Denton did the acts alleged: that is, it's unquestioned that she used public funds for her own, and her lover's benefit. That was Denton's choice, and with that choice went the possiblity that she'd be exposed. That she couldn't handle this exposure — or that she had depressive and suicidal tendencies built into her genetic hard drive — is not the media's fault.
It's a little strange, isn't it, to hear me defend the media? The thing is that, in this case, I think the media did what the media was supposed to do. Rather than being driven by a political meme or agenda, it engaged in a perfect example of true investigative reporting by following the money, and then telling the story. It didn't reveal state secrets, it didn't harass her because of political ideology, it didn't stifle other information in the proces — it simply exposed wrongdoing by someone with access to the public till.
It's ultimately a personal tragedy, and I hope that this troubled woman finds some peace in the afterlife — a peace that apparently eluded her when she set off on a convoluted and self-serving path several years ago.