Death, and What To Do About It

Yesterday a woman fell ice skating and presumably hit her head. By this morning she was dead. It wasn’t one of those stories you get a press release about, it’s just what happened.

And, since it was at a public skating rink, it was news. That isn’t my favorite kind of news to report, but like fires and felony arrests it landed in my lap.

So here’s the thing: we knew who it was, but we didn’t have all the information. We know her name and where she works, but not her address or her age. Just putting a name out there without more targeted information is bad form, so I started scrambling to get more.

I was able to get people to tell me they had heard it was this same woman, but they also just heard it through the community web, so it didn’t have the kind of value that can be turned into ink on the page. I was finally able to get a little information out of the fire chief, but still no name, address or age.

So what do you do? Do you print the story, knowing you’re right but also knowing someone with the same name could be incorrectly connected because of the holes you were unable to fill?

It’s one of those things where I know I’m right, and so does the rest of the newsroom, but I’ve got no source I can cite. In other words, I don’t know it.

The woman’s story made it into the paper, but she was left unidentified. I tried her kids, her work, the police, town records, anything I could, but that’s where it landed. At least we got something in the paper.

The worst part: figuring out there is a story here at 3:35 p.m. on a Friday. Do you know how many people answer their phone at that time? Not many.

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