Friday, July 20, 2012

A series of unfortunate events

It’s been a tough week in the newsroom. We’ve seen a lot tragedy, both locally and nationally, that we’ve shared with readers.

It all started Tuesday when several of us, including Staff Writer David Komer and I, were working late and a call came in about a crash in Taylor involving a motorcycle and a car. The tipster said it looked bad, and Komer ran out of here as quick as he could. The driver of the motorcycle, a 29-year-old Taylor man, died and two others were listed in critical condition days later.

Komer went from the scene of the crash to City Hall to cover a City Council meeting and wrote a short Web story on the crash while he was there, but that was the easy part of the coverage.

The hard part came Wednesday morning when we realized that surveillance footage of the crash existed, and that Norm’s Market was willing to share it with us. Of course, it was our duty to go and get the video, but then the decision on whether we should use it had to be made. As the video coordinator for our site, much of that decision came to me. I thought about it for a couple of hours and watched it several times before ultimately deciding on its journalistic value and that it should be shared with our audience.

Not all of the audience agreed, and some commented on how it was insensitive or that such graphic things should not be shown.

Those decisions did play into how we used the video. For starters, we did not edit it into our other video coverage of the event so as not to make anyone see it who chose not to. It was posted in a separate video player, with a title that detailed exactly what it was, and then also posted in a separate story file with a headline that also mentioned it was video of a fatality. The thought process was that with the two layers of decision-making, no one who didn’t want to see it would.

Another major factor that played into the decision to run the video was that other news sources also had it and had used it. I decided that since it was already out in the world that if our audience also wanted to see it, we should not impede them.

For those who questioned the decision to use the video, I hope you understand that it wasn’t done for shock value, but in an effort to cover the crash to the fullest of our ability.

Moving on to the next tragedy, a tip came in that two dismembered bodies found in the Detroit River were those of two people from Downriver and that there was a crime scene in Allen Park that was related. That was at about noon Thursday. Try as we might, we were unable to confirm that until about 9 p.m. But that is another tragedy that we will continue to cover through the end of the investigation.

That brings us to this morning, a day I’ve been waiting years for. “The Dark Knight Rises” was released at midnight and I have tickets for after work to see it. On Friday morning, I awoke to see that a massacre that killed at least 12 people and injured or wounded more than 30 had taken place in Aurora, Colo., at a premiere of the Batman film.

Being that it is a national story, it’s not the type of thing that we would normally cover because we stay as local as we can. But, the movie those people were viewing at the time of the shootings has generated interest Downriver, as well as nationally, as the most-anticipated release of the summer. And, we do have a sister paper in Colorado, The Denver Post, and decided that we should bring you some of the coverage of this tragic story, as well.

It might be a typical week in some newsrooms, but for us that’s a lot of crime and human tragedy. This week, I think I’m going to find some children with a lemonade stand and cover that.

As always, if you see something of interest in the community, let us know about it. If it’s interesting to you, it probably is to others, and we’ll do our best to cover it.

This column was originally posted on

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