Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Although we appreciate feedback from our readers and try very hard to help with concerns that come up, on Monday a reader called The Fulton Sun with a complaint that I believe was unfounded.
On the front page of Friday’s paper, we ran two photos of an accident that took the life of a 16-year-old Holts Summit girl on Dec. 8. The photos were merely of the wrecked vehicles and the story that ran with the photos gave the names of those involved in the accident and went on to describe how that particular crossing on 54 where the accident occurred has been a problem area in the past.
The reader’s complaint was this: Putting the photos on the front page was tasteless and insensitive to the girl’s family. How could we do such a thing?
Then the reader said she intended to cancel her subscription to The Sun and her relatives would be doing the same. The reader was not in any way related to the family that had lost their loved one. Maybe if she had been, she would have seen things differently — seen them from a perspective of one who has been there. I have.
Two and half years ago, my younger brother died in a motorcycle accident. It was a horrific time for my whole family. He was only 21, still in college, still so full of life and plans for the future, just as I’m sure the young girl in Thursday’s crash was. He was living in Joplin at the time. For days after his crash, I scanned The Joplin Globe, hoping to see his name listed in the fatal accident reports. It never was. Somehow, The Globe missed it.
I was disappointed. When your life is shaken by such an event, you want to feel others are shaken as well. I wanted people to know what had happened to my brother, to stand up and take notice. See! See what happened! He was cut off in the midst of his life by a terrible accident.
The Globe is a much bigger paper than that of Fulton. Unfortunately, fatal accidents happen quite regularly in its coverage area. Thankfully, not very many fatal accidents occur in Callaway County. Obviously, we wish none occurred. But when they do, it should be something people take notice of.
So, what if The Globe had instead run a front page story of my brother’s accident with a photo of the motorcycle wreckage? (Like the photo we ran in The Fulton Sun with just the vehicles, no one who was actually in the wreck.) I, honestly, would have been glad to see it there. I would have wanted people to know what had happened. I would have hoped maybe even some people would have learned something from such an article — like how terribly, terribly dangerous motorcycles are. My brother was even wearing a helmet, but it did no good. The helmet came off when he hit the pavement and he sustained massive injuries to his head. I would want people to know, in hopes that perhaps it might possibly save someone else from having a similar accident.
The article we ran about the grade crossing on 54 may possibly help in some small way, too. Perhaps people will read it and slow down at that spot, remembering what horrible thing occurred there.
But, to make sure my opinion wasn’t just biased because of my background in journalism, I called my parents and asked them their opinion. “What if Erid’s accident had been on the front page?” I asked. They both agreed that it would be something they’d keep, something that they hoped might help others in some way. They said they would not have found it insensitive or tasteless. They now can personally relate to every such article they see in a newspaper and feel true empathy for the families affected.
Everyone is entitled to their opinions on such matters, but this is mine. And I believe it is well-founded.