do better...

Last week, I submitted a Letter to the Editor for the first time. It was posted in the Caledonia Argus this week, but it wasn't posted in the online version, so I'm posting it here, too for anyone who wanted to see it but doesn't get a paper copy of the Argus. It was printed pretty much as I submitted, with a few small exceptions. 
  1. My subject line was: Extremely poor taste
  2. I addressed the author of the article - who is also the editor.
  3. I included a foot note and they did not.
A copy of what was printed is here and I pasted my original below. 

Subject: Extremely poor taste
Dear Ms. Bialkowski,

I'm writing to express that the front page article in the Caledonia Argus (http://hometownargus.com/2012/11/29/man-found-deceased-in-car/) regarding the death of Brandon Werner was, in my opinion, inappropriate. While I agree that the newspaper can use its platform to have an impact covering sensitive topics, such as suicide, there was no need to tie it to Brandon in such a public way. Your article demonstrates an utter lack of regard for his grieving family and friends both through its general nature and by stealing the words that his family intended for his obituary and remembrance, awkwardly placing them in the middle of your article–not to mention using only bits and pieces that tell an incomplete story.

Yes, I also saw your other post about the "bold leap" you made in choosing to report on it (http://hometownargus.com/2012/12/04/raising-awareness/). You are correct–suicide is a serious and sensitive issue. Helping people to see the warning signs, when possible, and providing ways to get help are both important and a service to the community. So by all means, report on this serious issue and raise awareness... but do it in a tactful way. Also, I suggest you learn the difference between a "bold leap" and a "completely insensitive article."  You had so many other options in how to raise awareness about this issue and you chose the one that hurts members of the community you serve.

Yes, Yes. I also saw Larry Werner's article (http://hometownargus.com/2012/12/04/folks-have-a-lot-to-say-about-suicide-2/). It's a good article that raises awareness of the issues. Perhaps you could have included the tips for prevention with his article and “raised awareness” in a more appropriate way. If you read it carefully, you'll notice that those speaking out about specific individuals who committed suicide are the members of the families impacted directly and who chose to speak publicly, not the reporters or newspaper editors. And, I'm not sure if you missed this part, too?
Don Heinzman, a columnist and editorial writer for ECM, has been working with our company for years on policies related to the way we cover the news. Don has spent more years in this business than I have, is a member of our editorial board and our company’s board of directors. He sent along the ECM policy on suicide coverage and said he thinks it’s the best way to handle this difficult subject.

The policy reads, in part: “Reporting of suicides requires greater sensitivity than deaths due to other unnatural causes such as drowning or murder. Suicides should be reported when involving prominent public areas or public figures.” (Caledonia Argus - Dec. 4, 2012)

I'm not sure what part of this situation was in a "prominent public area" (“vehicle parked in a field") or reporting on a "public figure." So, in addition to tactless and insensitive, it would appear that your article does not align with the policy set forth by ECM, your parent publishing company.

I may no longer live in the Caledonia community, but I care about it, my family that lives there, and Brandon's family. I can't speak for them, but I can speak for myself–and I'm really disappointed.

Brenda Kruse
Maple Grove, MN

p.s. One big difference between us is that I gave Brandon’s family an opportunity to see this before sending it. They approved. Feel free to print it.

CC sent via hard copy to:
ECM Publishing, Inc.
Corporate Office
4095 Coon Rapids Blvd.
Coon Rapids, MN 55433


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