Our Facebook page is blowing up today. We had a couple of articles in today's Democrat that were quite polarizing. Obviously, there was no shortage of tragedy in either case. Both involved untimely deaths. Both involved public records.
Exception was taken to the use of those public records. What I'm hearing on Facebook is that we should have only written half of the story and not the whole thing. But the rub is that we don't have the luxury of cherry picking facts to paint people in a particular light. Our readers shouldn't want us to do that.
As a newspaper, writing only half the story is not a good thing. It causes a loss of credibility. In telling the whole story, sometimes there are facts that, while neither flattering nor pleasant, are necessary to add context. It is, therefore, our responsibility, to ourselves and to our readers, to tell the whole story regardless of the slings and arrows that we may suffer as a result.
So, was the arrest record important in the Obie story? Sadly, yes. Obie was safest when he was off the street. I've heard that from more than one person. Obie was released on Monday and he had his terrible accident on Wednesday. Our phone rang all day with people inquiring about his whereabouts and condition. The arrest record shows the tragic timeline and was absolutely important to the story. "Man dies while crossing street" just does not tell the whole story, does it?
The public records were also relevant to the William Chambers story. There is no way to objectively write a story about a young man tragically dying in a motorcycle accident without including that earlier the same day, he had been sentenced on charges stemming from a high speed chase on a motorcycle. To do so would have been a lie by ommission. It's part of the story. As for the "facts" that we stand accused of leaving out, there is no doubt that to many people Mr. Chambers was charming, well-liked, of a loving family, and had many friends. However, those aren't facts; they are points of view.
We do not get paid to emote or opine. We get paid to gather facts and organize them into an "AP Stylebook"-type story. It's up to our readers to form opinions. These were sad stories. That much is obvious. Folks in our news department are emotionally invested in both stories and it was difficult to be objective but they were. At the end of the day, we've provided a service to the community by writing stories that are objective, concise, and free of color or commentary.