Nathan Carman was rescued by a passing freighter last Sunday after being lost at sea for a week. He was found 100 miles off the coast of Massachusetts after his boat sank on a mother-son fishing trip. His mother is still missing and presumed dead. Carman is now being questioned by the police and the National guard as part of an investigation. This is nothing out of the ordinary seeing as he was the only other person with his mom on the boat at the time of her disappearance.
That is the brief background of the story that is still unfolding, but only the surface. Carman was also a suspect in the unsolved slaying of his 87-year-old grandfather, John Chakalos, in 2013. This is where it gets interesting. Chakalos was a wealthy real estate developer who, in his will, left an estate worth more than $42 million to his four adult daughters, one being Carman’s mother. Carman was the last person known to have seen his grandfather before he was shot multiple times inside his home in Windsor, Connecticut. Carman was not charged due to insufficient evidence but still to this day remains a person of interest. Carman who has Asperger’s syndrome, also has records of a violent past from his childhood into his teen years.
In the past week, news outlets have been reporting on the boating incident in various ways. Some articles originally lead with headlines like “Boat Accident Survivor Now in Boston,” with no mention of the previous suspicions in his grandfather’s murder. While other headlines paint a different picture entirely. “Search Warrants Paint Disturbing Picture of Man Rescued at Sea” reads the CBS Boston headline that leads into a story that is more focused on Carman’s past than the recent boating accident.
Carman has spoken out on this issue saying that dredging up the past is “compounding his grief” over his missing mother. He spoke out to the Hartford Courant on their unfair coverage of his story.
“I’m lucky to be alive, I lost my mother and very, very difficult people, especially the Hartford Courant are trying or, raking up the time when I lost my grandfather. [He] was like a father to me and casting that in just a very, very wrong light.”
While reading the articles that delve into his past, I found myself being completely convinced that he sunk his boat on purpose to murder his mother. This was solely based on the fact that I knew he was a suspect in his grandfather’s murder. But if I hadn’t known that, I would have thought differently and sympathized with this young man who lost two very important people in his life.
I started to ask myself a lot of questions. If I were reporting on this story, what would I include? It is obviously causing more harm to Carman associating his grandfather’s case with his mother’s disappearance so much so that he has spoken out against specific news organizations. Does the public need to know that he was a suspect in a previous case or has a violent background in high school? Or is that irrelevant information at this point? Is it ethical for the media to create a bias against Nathan Carman or should the media be reporting solely on the information about this case?
After reading multiple articles on his story, I concluded that as a journalist I would report on the facts of the boating trip case. I would mention the death of his grandfather but not highlight that he was a suspect since he was never charged. I believe that would cause the least amount of harm towards Carman and his family while also holding up my obligation as a journalist to state the truth while remaining independent.