Editorial: News is not comfortable, shall we then avoid it?

EDITORIAL – What happened? How did it happen? What is going to happen? Tell us.

Questions like these were asked from the moment the recent plane crash in St. George occurred, taking four young lives. These questions were asked from the moment the head-on collision occurred last week, taking the life of a father and husband. These questions are asked when changes are made in our towns and when laws are passed that please or displease our sense of life and society and government.

How did it happen?

Perhaps it is human nature to ask questions and then rue hearing the answers. In small communities, lives intersect closely.

At St. George News, if we discover information or if a report is brought to us that includes uncomfortable news that may illuminate what happened, it is our job to report it. It is not our job to draw conclusions from the report discovered or received.

If we are selective and choose against publishing uncomfortable reports, if we choose against presenting issues that arise, then we are not to be trusted.

It is the calling of community to comfort each other. It is the calling of a news service to report answers to the factual questions, to report the story wherever it may lead.

Because my interviewee in yesterday’s exclusive is now recasting how his story came to be told, and because as many found the story objectionable as did those who appreciated it, it is incumbent on me to tell you how it developed and to address issues you have raised.

I received a call Monday morning from Justin Ross telling me he was the last person to talk to the four, that he had been with them the night of the crash and knew things that were not being reported. He asked to meet with me in person. He invited me to come to him where he was staying. I went directly and met with him in the home of his brother and sister-in-law with them present.

Before he told his story, I explained that (1) I would be recording the interview, (2) we would not publish on anonymous source, therefore if he did not decide in the end to permit his name on the story it would not be told, and (3) whatever he was going to tell me I would likely be obligated to share with the investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board. He agreed to talk with the investigator himself and told me his story.

The recorded interview lasted 21 minutes.

I agreed to review the story as written with him before publishing it. I wrote the story; I excluded things he surmised that he could not know, and restricted it to his first-hand experience. I read the story to him three times over the phone, I made changes to words he used that he asked be made, he provided names, and he corrected locations. I told him when I received the photo he offered, I would publish. He sent me one photo and we published the story at 3:27 p.m. He provided a second group photo by email and then by text two-and-a-half hours later, at 5:56 p.m. I later removed the group photo at his request because he said some included in the group asked it be removed.

At 6:03 p.m. I received a call from Stephanie Christensen who asked if I was the one to tell about her experience with the boys in the plane crash. I took her statement, which told a different aspect of the night in question, and obtained her permission to give her contact information to the NTSB investigator. We published a second post reflecting Christensen’s interview just after 7 p.m. At 10:02 p.m. she texted and emailed her own written statement asking it replace the interviewed statement. We did so at 10:11 p.m.

Before being contacted by Ross, I had not received any information about anything personal about the young men involved in the plane crash or about their activities.

St. George News is not the advocate for anyone involved and it is not the trier or decider of fact. We do not draw judgments in our news reporting.

The two accounts we have published in this recent incident may represent other experiences that night or they may be unique; it is possible they may be rebutted. Together, the two stories indicate a large group gathering, a later larger group gathering, and the small group of five young men in a vehicle between the two gatherings. Some of the times stated for events related through witness testimony raise questions, as some of our readers have pointed out. This is for the investigation to sort out. For example, if Justin Ross had his last conversation with his friends at 1:10 a.m., and the plane is visible on security camera footage taking off the runway at 1:20 a.m., how is that possible? If both times are accurate, were the four already at the airport rather than on the freeway as Ross thought when that telephone conversation took place? I don’t know and it is not my job to resolve the question.

There are more questions than solid conclusions at this time; tragedies like this do not happen without an ensuing investigation. And the federal investigation is not expected to give final report for months.

Among the foci of the investigation are, what happened in the hours before the accident, what environmental factors were at play, did the aircraft and its engine have a condition that factored in, what was the psychological and physiological state of the persons involved. The ultimate findings may reflect any one or more of such factors. But you already know that.

Whatever may be determined, information on all these points does emerge and some of it is brought to our attention.

Let’s consider a larger question. Shall we be a community that discourages people from being forthright when something bad happens? Shall we stone a member of our community who is willing to speak up when those around him or her say ‘don’t tell them’ this or that? Does either of those who gave interview deserve to be shamed for telling the truth as they experienced it? To my knowledge, nobody can dispute that the gatherings, the parties, occurred. Neither of those who gave interview did so suggesting anyone flew a plane impaired. They did not give interview with any malice, rather with considerable expression of love for their friends.

Is your message, St. George community, don’t ask and whatever you do don’t tell? Does circling wagons spare us difficulties, does it serve our best interests? Parents, if your child comes forward and tells you the backstory to something that happened on the playground, do you affirm them for having the integrity and the courage to speak honestly? Or do you teach them to be silent and revise the history of the events so it plays more palatably lest someone or something be shown in a less-than-positive light?

For those who ask we quash this kind of information, that sheds light on an incident, you are asking us to not tell the whole truth. We cannot do that.

The episodes of the past week have been horrific tragedies, regardless of the factors that contributed to them. On a personal level, I have questioned whether I have the stomach for this job I have accepted as editor of a news service for an involved and tight-knit community. The harder news is to report, the closer I examine what is the role of St. George News. I do so with effort, with counsel, and with fear.

News is often uncomfortable, it often reveals things we wish were not so or that we fear may be misinterpreted. It frequently presents things that polarize points of view, as can our slate of opinion columnists for example.

I wish that life were so simple that a united “yes!” could be answered to the now cliché outcry, “can’t we all just get along?” It was the not-so-pristine Rodney King who offered that plea, by the way, a plea that has ironically become society’s top-pick exclamation whenever it finds itself prickling one another like a bed of porcupines.

The truth is: Life is messy.

Accidents happen. Crimes happen. All sorts of things happen. Like it or not, people do things and things occur in the midst of people living their lives. Sometimes, what we do finds us in the midst of negative or unfortunate events. Communities have subsets that seek to actively change and even legislate things in their favor.

Is it not better to be aware of these happenings before and as they happen? Or do we prefer to turn a blind eye and cover our ears and pretend something that displeases us did not happen? Might you later cry out, “why didn’t you tell us that movement was afloat or this, that or the other thing happened?”

Does the St. George News community deserve to know what we discover? I think so. I actually trust the heart of this community to take what is learned and decide what to do with it, to uphold one another in the midst of tragedies, and to respond appropriately to uncomfortable truths. That is your job, community.

Our job at St. George News is to give you the information, whatever it is, pleasant or unpleasant, and to invite you to do with it what you will and to talk about it freely here on the platform we offer you.

That is my heart for St. George News.

Sincerely,

Joyce Kuzmanic

 

Email: jkuzmanic@stgnews.com

Twitter: @JoyceKuzmanic

Copyright 2012 St. George News. 

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13 Comments

  • Firefly May 29, 2012 at 11:11 am

    Well said Joyce. STGNews has been doing an outstanding job since its inception. True, it is difficult at time to report some news, but it is what you do and and you do a fine job of it , regardless of if that news is good,bad, pleasant or unpleaseant. It is what a new agency does. I commend you for continueing to do the excellent job STGNews has been doing. Some people will not like what they read here, but they are not forced to read it. Keep up the good work.

  • Ginger Farnsworth May 29, 2012 at 11:31 am

    I can appreciate everything that has been stated in this editorial, however, I cannot entirely agree with all you have said. One of the first artlcles posted by your organization, before the victims of the plane crash had even been identified, was so offensive that I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Thank heaven you had the decency to edit it.

    Yours is a difficult job, I will admit that, but there is a fine line between what constitutes “news” and what is nothing more that sensational journalism. All media need to take into consideration the human beings affected by the “news” they are reporting. Common courtesy and human decency should always override the need to boost readership by putting out the latest “scoop”. The people directly impacted by such stories should always receive first consideration – the rest of us can have our nosey curiosity satisfied after the those who have been involved in the tragedy have been considered and cared for.

    Compassion and consideration should always be first. My opinion, and frankly I’m just as entitled to it as you are to yours.

    • Jess May 29, 2012 at 12:31 pm

      I fully agree with this comment. The problem isn’t so much that you reported ‘uncomfortable news’. Much of the news is uncomfortable these days. Its just how it is. The problem lies in that there was absolutely no regard given to those family members and friends who lost loved ones this weekend. Again, human decency. A lot of family and friends are going through the heart wrenching process of grief right now. Now is the time to band together as a community and support those people. It is not the time to create unnecessary drama that will most likely only deepen the wound of the family and friends left behind. It just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Finally, these articles are not ‘news’. They are speculation at best. In your rush to get the ‘uncomfortable news’ out there it seems you have turned most of St. George News into an ongoing opinion column.

      • Jess May 29, 2012 at 1:17 pm

        After some thought, I want to add this. I’m all for getting the truth out and not sweeping things under the rug. Its just that this doesn’t really seem like the way to go about it. The truth will come out. Thats the point of having an investigation. The NTSP will release the FACTS when the time comes. In the mean time, all this speculation is only creating unnecessary drama for people who are going through heart-wrenching grief. Would I feel different if this was a non-Mormon/non-return missionary? Not at all. I’d still think its appropriate to wait until the FACTS come out before publishing speculative opinion pieces that have the possibility of harming people already in a large amount of pain. Wait until the FACTS are released.

  • sad May 29, 2012 at 11:41 am

    You do an awesome job at keeping the community updated but I looked up Justin on Facebook and he says you twisted his words and his intentions were not to hurt his friends reputations. I’m not saying you did but I hope its not true

  • Amen to Ginger May 29, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    Amen to what Ginger said, just because someone has come forward with information doesn’t mean it is the time to publish it, shame on us as a community for being so worried about what, how, and why before we worry about those mourning the loss of their loved ones.

  • Courtney White May 29, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    I believe that the ST. News is doing it’s job. Get over life and get on with it. Things happen if what is being said then maybe we should all just closet ourselves in our homes and never come out. People make mistakes and that is ok. Isn’t that what we are here for make mistakes and learn from them. I am so sorry for the families losses. I want them to know that my prayers are with them but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a learning experience for all of us. Every body makes mistakes and it is ok. I am sorry that the boys had to loose their lives but the point is they did. I am sure they didn’t mean to do it. Just like we don’t mean to do certain things but lets not get all political about things we have enough of that already. Thank you for all that everybody does

  • David Riggs May 29, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    The reporting of news must never be hindered by what some people call “sensational journalism”..! Terms like “common courtesy and human decency” are subjective and judgmental.These phrases have no place in the business of reporting the truth. As long as the the reporter does the ‘due diligence’ required to tell what happened in a non-biased way, it is the reader’s responsibility to grant compassion and sympathy to the victims.

  • Anonymous May 29, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    Well first off I am one of Justin’s very good friends and I know he would never say anything bad about his family or friends. He is a person that is always smiling, happiest person and i dont know anybody that doesnt love him. I will support Justin all the way. You guys just need to leave him alone. I was with Justin yesterday and he was still in tears about his friends, he hasnt even slept for three days. He was blaming himself on the accident for getting out of the car “If i wouldnt have gotten out of the car, we would have ended up driving to mesquite, because there was only 4 seats.” those were his exact words. 2nd if you didnt have any information on this case yet, what kind of reporter are you, after three days you dont know anything about the case, Thats bulls***. 3rd why are you interviewing guys who are not in there right mind at the time because 4 of his best friends just got killed in a plane crash a couple days prior to talking to him, then you want to slander his name. You should be ashamed of yourself.

  • WT*??? May 29, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    There is always a line to walk between morals and ethics. Yes, ethically, you are obligated to report the news, however inaccurate or accurate your statements may be. Morally, you could have waited to start this firestorm until after the funerals and some time had passed for initial greiving. You have no idea what you have done to Justin. You copped him out to be a ‘sellout’. Anyone who knows Justin knows that he has already had to deal with the suicide of our roommate years ago and losing a best friend. But I want to know where, Joyce, where do you draw your line between ethics and morals. You showed blantant disregard for the feelings of all those involved and affected by this tragedy in the name of “reporting”. I know for a fact, had it happened to be your friends on that plane. You would not be reporting these types of details in this fashion on this timeline. Just a little respect, just a little more regard to those other than yourself, would make a lot of difference. Congratulations on embarrassing and humiliating those involved in this tragedy. Not only witnesses but those families of those loved ones who we lost.

  • wow May 29, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    what happened is terrible but i dont understand why ppl are ganging up on stg news…first of all w/ justin, he WENT TO stg news not the other way around, and stg news has the recorded interview to prove it if it comes to that. as for the fact that the boys were drinking, big deal, people drink. and the ONLY thing i’ve seen anyone say about the kids being mormon or not mormon was the in comment just a few posts above mine. stg news didnt judge those kids for what they did or didn’t do.

    should stg news have waited until the funerals were over to write about what happened? no way!!!! news is supposed to be NEW. right after they found the plane people went to stg news on fb and asked what was going on, so stg news found out what was going on, and when justin told them he knew stuff they listened to him and READ THE STORY TO HIM before it was posted and changed what he wanted changed before they put it up!!!! and yeah the ntsb is doing a report but it won’t be out for five or six MONTHS…do you really want to wait that long to find out what happened? we deserve to find out what happened as soon as the news has the facts…and thats what they did.

    if you dont like what you see on this website then dont read it. you have a lot of other places to get your news. and news isnt always happy…things happen, people die, people do stupid things to other people, etc…thats just how the world is. dont get upset at stg news for just telling it like it is. im going to keep reading stg news, they tell us the truth of whats going on and they actually respond to us on fb when we have questions and stuff.

  • Anonymous May 30, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    What makes you even think you can use Justin’s name in this post? He never granted you permission to write this article about him. So you are breaking a law by slandering his name like you are making him out to be a liar and yes we did save this article and he will use this against you in court. I am backing Justin 100% on this because I know what kind of person he really is.

    • Joyce Kuzmanic Joyce Kuzmanic May 31, 2012 at 5:35 am

      Not true. Ask him. He has courage.

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