I was sitting at home watching “Wheel of Fortune” and talking to the TV when my phone pinged. It was a message from our assistant news editor, Colleen Keller.
“It sounds like police shot a driver. Near 69th was all I could glean.”
These stories are always tricky. Friends and family of the victim are going to be upset. Police are going to be on edge. Not much official information will be released, at least at first, but the social media gossip grapevine will be working overtime. Some of the information that’s spread will likely lack context or be untrue, so we will have to be careful not to repeat it.
We can and should go to the shooting scene, but we don’t have a reporter or photographer working at that time of day. It’s very dark, and we are unlikely to be allowed close enough to see what happened. We won’t even know which law enforcement agency to ask for information, because outside agencies investigate these cases.
Add to it the volatility of public opinion over shootings by police — including one that happened in October less than a mile away on the other side of the freeway. And we’re all aware of what transpired in Portland last summer. In my view we have a duty to inform, but not inflame, the public.
What should we report? What shouldn’t we report? And what about the timing? It is all very sensitive.