Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Ethical dilemma

I had to ponder an ethical dilemma at work Tuesday. A man committed suicide Monday evening. Many newspapers don'r report suicides because - well, as far as crime news goes, there's no crime involved (suicide is a victimless crime) and also no arrest. Families are almost always devastated by suicides.

However, the circumstances in this case were unusual. The man shot humself on someone else's property, and outdoors; he also used a small caliber handgun, and he wasn't dead when emergency personnel arrived. He was taken by helicopter air ambulance to a hospital in Texarkana.

Needless to say, in a small community, the law enforcement response and the helicopter ambulance attracted a lot of attention, so everyone knew something had happened. I had two people ask me what happened before I made it to the phone and called the Sheriff's Department first thing Tuesday morning.

Circumstances being what they were, I felt there was no way I couldm't write the story up; rumors would have been a lot worse than the truth. I put it on the bottom of the front page, and the one concession I made to sensibilities was that I never used the word "suicide" - although everyone knows what a "self-inflicted gunshot wound" means.

Later in the morning, I was getting phone calls from people who couldn't wait for the paper to come out. One lady called and asked me for some information, which I told her. Before she hung up she said she called us because she knew we are an "honest paper".

That kinda made me feel good.

1 comment:

  1. Been there, done that Lou. One of many reasons I got out of the newspaper biz. The best you can hope for is to set the record straight in a fair and evenhanded way, stopping hurtful rumors and misinformation before they take on a life of their own.


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