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Wayne’s World – A bad week

Posted on September 15, 2014 by Maple Creek

Last week was not a good week. In fact, it was a terrible week. A considerable amount of snow fell at higher elevations of the Cypress Hills, I became ill and missed half the week, a funeral was held for Bob Lansdall – a well respected and appreciated pharmacist – and two young men died as the result of a workplace accident Sept. 8 at Fox Valley.

The double tragedy was a horrendous shock in itself and the grief involved undoubtedly devastated family members, relatives and friends of the 24 and 25-year-old workers. Sudden and unexpected deaths are especially difficult to deal with when the victims are young as was the case at Fox Valley and also at Ravenscrag where two boys (brothers) died in August.

Anyone who has dealt with the death of a loved one or close friend knows that grief can stir up negative emotions that can cripple a person or family for a long period of time. A double tragedy multiplies the pain many times and it can seem unbearable if it is not dealt with.

Unfortunately, local news coverage of the most-recent tragedy sparked an outcry by individuals who voiced their complaints by phone (anonymously), email and through social media. Due to the nature of people’s concerns, I feel it will be beneficial to review the purpose, protocols and standards of your local media.

1 – one of the main roles of news media has always been to cover events as they happen and that includes tragic accidents which occur in our readership. The workplace fatality at Fox Valley was only one of the heart-breaking events to recently hit our area and it received the same coverage as other tragedies. In past years, these calamities have included fatal highway collisions, farm accidents, fires and floods.

2 – news coverage involves photographs when possible. It has been that way since the invention of cameras and the ability to reproduce an image on newsprint. Hand sketches were published prior to the advent of cameras.

3 – news media have varying standards when it comes to determining which photographs or video will be presented to the public. Unlike national and international television news, the News-Times chooses to use images that do not show a body. This protocol is followed out of respect for family and friends of the deceased and is simply old-fashioned common sense. Please note that the Sept. 11 front-page photograph does not show a body.

4 – Emergency responders can be seen in the photo and that is often the case since they are typically working to extract victims and save lives when a news reporter reaches the scene.

5 – unlike social media, the News-Times does not make misleading or incorrect statements due to emotional involvement. The Maple Creek News and Advance Times both serve as papers of record (documents that are archived provincially for historical purposes) and newspaper employees therefore take their jobs seriously when it comes to reporting news as accurately as possible.

6 – Credible news sources and people with expertise in specific areas are sought out since reporters are not and cannot be experts on every subject that is written about.

7 – if something is reported in error, it is corrected immediately after notification. To publish a correction, specific information regarding an error is required since it is impossible to write a correction based on vague statements or opinion.

8 – part of any media’s role is to reflect what is happening in the area and help educate the public. Therefore supplemental information on hydrogen sulphide (H2S) was added to the Sept. 8 double-fatality story in order to inform readers of properties and hazards of the dangerous gas.

9 – a reputable media outlet strives to equally apply rules and standards that govern news reporting and photo gathering to all residents and situations.

10 – since the employees of your local media live in the area, they also try to treat people with the same respect they would expect in a similar situation.

11 – lastly, we work hard to avoid error, but we are also human and occasionally it happens.

Tragedies are a sad fact of life, and a reporter’s job would be a lot easier (emotionally and time wise) if they were left unreported. However, to do so would prevent news of significant events from reaching people. News coverage is not intended to be offensive and should reflect what is happening in the world around us.

For this reason I personally attended many fatal accidents and fires while working as a reporter. In fact, it was media coverage of a terrible accident near Gull Lake that was instrumental in getting the provincial government to decide to twin the Trans-Canada Highway. There were many horrific collisions that led to the decision to twin the highway and the worst year that I recall was notorious for one single reason – seven fatal accidents. Responding to all of them were RCMP, emergency medical personnel and volunteer firemen. These individuals are the unsung heroes when tragedies occur and they deserve a big thank you for the thankless and dangerous jobs they perform.

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