Staff Editorial – Words cut deep

The news business can be unforgiving, both on readers and on the reporters and editors that work to produce it.

Last week we dealt with a story that certainly hit home to the college community. We lost two people that were wonderful members of this college and city. Arts, education, childcare; this couple did it all for Oswego.

Their influence was profound and the impact they made on students and fellow faculty made covering their death difficult.

Certain stories are tough on a newsroom. They make us think about our own families and friends; they force us to look upon our own lives and ask "what would I do?’ Yet, when compassion and news meet in battle on the page, the cold hard news usually wins.

For a person acquainted with the subjects of a story, no rendition of their lives is perfect, and journalistic reports often come off as ignorant and dehumanizing.

Despite all that encompassed the lives of Richard and Josephine Hyse, there was a criminal homicide involved. We were forced to write about one individual killing another with the clear intent to do so.

Journalists are trained to be cold. We’re trained to disassociate with sources and friends who could become sources. We distrust officials and public policy and pour through otherwise perfect budgets for a single discrepancy. We’re praised when we are heartlessly objective and mercilessly chided as biased when we show any inclination of emotion in our reporting.

We at The Oswegonian called the criminal homicide last week a murder, and in a legal definition, we were correct in doing so. Yet, as human beings, the word carries a weight that many said has lacked compassion. In hindsight, we agree.

In our defense, the story we reported on attempted to capture the essence of two lives in 400 words, a task we would not want to force onto anyone. Unfortunately, two otherwise noble lives ended in a criminal act.

The ethics of this dilemma haunt journalists. Its roots dig deeper than just the choice of words; they dig into the difference between covering the story and invading a delicate privacy. These situations can progress careers, but tarnish a pivotal connection with humanity.

Stories don’t start when a reporter starts asking questions and they certainly don’t end once published. If anything, the media coverage is nothing more than sharing a portion of the story with a wider audience.

It is not the intent of this publication to print material that will deliberately offend or sensationalize.

It is okay, if not necessary, to be offended at least occasionally; it only shows that you are human.