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Monday, Aug. 29, 2016

Informing the public can be difficult job

Thursday, August 29, 2002

"We apologize if the photograph caused additional heartache for the family and friends"

For two days now, the Standard Democrat has received its fair share of criticism over the photograph on the front page of our Tuesday edition following the fatal bus accident that claimed the life of 6 year-old Kristen Harris. Some of those criticism are being published on this page today.

For starters, our sincere condolences go to the Harris family in this time of sadness. We can only imagine with great concern the impact of this tragic death and the void that will remain with this family forever. Our hearts go out to all of those who mourn the life of this precious child.

By publishing Tuesday's photograph, we honestly had no intention of inflicting any emotional pain or sorrow for anyone involved. We apologize if the photograph caused additional heartache for the family and friends.

The publishing business runs on deadlines. Unlike many other professions, we operate with one eye on the clock daily. That's just the nature of our business. And decisions are made in this hectic environment that should be made with thoughtful deliberation. Often times the circumstances do not allow that lengthy contemplation and decisions are made in haste under pressure of deadline.

Tuesday's photograph was graphic. It showed school articles laying on the street at the site of the tragic accident. Other more graphic photographs were quickly rejected in favor of one that would display the scene and inform readers of the circumstances surrounding the accident.

If one child or one bus driver or one parent was motivated to take more time and caution as a result of the photograph and article, then we did our job. Some readers thought we should have held the article to the following day to allow a more appropriate photograph to be published. But our mission is to report the news in a timely fashion and, through that reporting, both inform the public and perhaps encourage change where appropriate.

Newspapers, like funeral home directors, deal with death daily. Often the public first learns of a death by reading their local newspaper. We strive for sensitivity and compassion in each and every instances. And more times than not, we get it right. In the chaos of the moment, sometimes we make decisions that would be changed in hindsight. Unfortunately, like many of you, we do not have the advantage of hindsight.

We sat in this office Tuesday and watched the tears of our school superintendent. We heard the concern and sadness in the voice of our Public Safety director. We felt the sadness shared by the entire community over this tragedy. And we imagined the pain we would feel had this child been our own.

Our goal was not to be insensitive nor sensational. Our goal was to accurately report the news and to do so in a fashion that would bring about change if change is needed. Along the way we offended some readers and for that, we apologize.

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