Blogs » Your Advocate: an editor's blog » When tragedy strikes, a community newspaper must rise to the occasion


I spoke Monday with a few of the kindest, most decent people I've encountered in some time. They were real salt-of-the-earth people who somehow exuded warmth and wisdom with each carefully chosen word.

Unfortunately, we were brought together by one of the worst stories of 2013, the accidental death of an 8-year-old boy in rural Lavaca County. They and others let us know they thought the headline on Saturday's story about the death was insensitive.

There's no good way to convey such awful news, but our intent is never to add to a family's pain. For such news, our goal should be to report it as compassionately as possible. In this case, the word "accident" could have helped the headline.

We'll be talking more about this coverage during our monthly ethics board meeting next week. I took a few notes during the conversations I had with family members and friends. This comment is one I already have shared with our staff:

"The next time tragedy like this happens -- and there will be a next time -- be a little more sensitive to the way it's worded."

It's our job to report the news, be it good or bad, glad or sad. Still, we always must remember the news touches our family, friends and neighbors in a deep and lasting way. For the family of this little boy, no words suffice. To these kind, decent people, I can offer only my thoughts and prayers.

Several years ago, I wrote this passage: "We're all family, after all. A newspaper should be that close friend who cheers your successes, cries over your losses, and prods you to be better than you ever thought possible."

In a handful of headline words, our never-ending challenge is to capture the right tone for every story. We're sorry we didn't rise to the occasion with this one.