Blogs > Tell the Editor

A conversation between readers and the editor of The Morning Journal in Lorain, Ohio

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Presenting unpleasant realities in the news

 Below are a couple of comments we received on Facebook in reaction to the photo, above, of Travis Stidham spotlighted by a police helicopter, holding  a gun to his head just before he fatally shot himeself, ending the manhunt that began when he shot and wounded Lorain County Sheriff's Deputy Charles Crausaz on Dec. 12.  

Presenting unpelasant realities in the news often draws complaints from some readers. Below the complaints is the response I provided, explaining how we look at the question.

What's your opinion on how unpleasant news should be presented in the newspaper and online, or not presented. Click the red "Comment" link below this post to have your say.  -- Tom Skoch, Editor

I find it very unnessary to have a picture on the front page of Travis with a gun to his head. Don't you think his family and friends are going through enough as it is? Then to look at the paper this morning to see that. Little kids look and read the news papers. How would you feel if your child came to you at a young age and asked what that man in the paper is doing? I knew Travis not very well and I still don't like seeing this when I look at the paper and see that slideshow. Very unnessary!!! Rude thats all it
Melody Fox-Gallam very un caring and should be done differently.

    • The Morning Journal
      Our task is to report accurately on life, pleasant and unpleasant, so readers can have a better understanding of the world they live in daily. The photo shows the intensity of the manhunt, it helps to verify the police account of what happened, it shows why so many people in the area of the incident were frightened. It also captures the state Travis Stidham was in at the moment. It simply presents the facts of this incident. People can use this photographic knowledge to assess what happened, and maybe draw lessons from it that are helpful. We would do the community a disservice by hiding unpleasant realities from the public. Presenting facts for the public's benefit is our job. Deciding what children should see or not see is for individual parents to decide.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

New ways of telling news stories shine in manhunt drama

What you just read above is a running account of the shooting of a deputy, the manhunt for the suspect and its aftermath, all pulled together from Twitter with Storify. The tweets were from my own Twitter account and mirrored those we sent on The Morning Journal's Twitter account @MorningJournal. They offer facts and link to more-complete news stories online.
The use of newer tools like Twitter and Storify, Facebook and updates on the web and by text alert are all part of The Morning Journal's digital first method of news coverage.
The shooting of Lorain County Deputy Charles Crausaz on Monday night, followed by an intense manhunt that ended with suspect Travis Stidham killing himself as lawmen closed in was a story that unfolded over about 90 minutes.
When the first call of an officer being shot came across the police scanner, the newsroom quickly shifted gears to focus on the breaking story.
Veteran photographer Jim Bobel headed for the LaGrange Township area where the drama was taking place.
Reporter Rick Payerchin turned from writing about Lorain City Hall to monitoring the police scanner and working the phone to reach out to authorities and people in the area for information.
Reporter Allison Strouse returned from covering an Avon Lake City Council meeting and headed toward LaGrange to gather facts.
Bit by bit as the facts came in, we put out the word on as well as by SMS text alert, Twitter and Facebook. We reached out to online readers on Facebook for information and they also began reacting to the story as it was taking place.
Jim Bobel's photo shows suspect Travis Stidham, spotlighted by a police helicopter, before shooting himself.
Payerchin got information from the scanner and from frightened residents in the neighborhood where the manhunt took place.
Strouse talked with investigators in LaGrange about the shooting and manhunt and got video of a briefing by the sheriff.
Bobel scored a news coup by being in the right place at the right time. Seeing the police helicopter in the sky, he drove toward it and came upon the suspect running in a field, gun to his head, and spotlighted by the helicopter's search beam.
Bobel got photos of that dramatic image, and seconds later, the suspect shot himself in the head.
Phoning in to tell me what he had seen and photographed, Bobel then had to wait to be interviewed by investigators before he returned to the newsroom and his powerful photos were added to the story online. The photos will appear in print with followup coverage.
The next afternoon Payerchin and photographer Anna Norris teamed up to bring readers live streaming video of the investigators' news conference with the latest on the continuing story, as it was happening.
The human tragedy is as old as humanity.
The basic reporting principles of getting the facts fast and accurately is traditional.
But the new digital tools and techniques available today, enable us to bring readers the story as it develops, and as they react and even help offer what they know.
Digital first journalism is what we live and breathe at and The Morning Journal, and we invite you to join us in the daily adventure.