February Column Winner

Remember Those Affected

J.B. BITTNER, The Elk City Daily News

It's been a tough week in the community news business.
If we chose to set aside the human connections to the events we cover, this job would be a lot easier.
But instead we choose not to ignore that human connection. We are determined to recognize and remember that there are families and others affected, sometimes devastated, by the events that become news stories on our pages.
There is a line between reporting the news for news value and reporting information simply to titillate and to feed curiosities.
It is not a line upon which all editors agree. In fact, the line is set more by integrity and community values than by anything we learned in journalism school. It is a line I will not cross.
That is not to say we will deem ourselves the community's censor. We will not withhold pertinent details that are elements of a news story.
The truth will always be that there will be news that hurts someone, by the very existence of the event that became a news story. Being reminded of a tragic or heinous act is hurtful to those affected by that act.
On Wednesday I fielded what might be the toughest call I have taken in my more than three decades as a journalist.
A 20-year-old college student whose mother was shot to death last week appealed to me not to ignore the story but to not forget that it is personal to her. I made one promise to that young woman.
I did not vow to keep pertinent details private.
I did promise that with every single word we wrote about her mother's death and her brother's arrest and events that follow, we would think about the daughter.
I will keep that promise.
I hope that, as our valued readers examining our coverage of last week's homicide, you will do the same.
And not just this onetime. Sadly, we live in a world where, more and more it seems, tragedy hits closer and closer to home.
We will be there to cover the news for you, professionally and in detail. We will be there with our promise to remember all who are affected by what we write. 

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