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With Respect

In tragedy, balancing facts and feelings

It was touching to see that three floral bouquets have been placed at the grassy lot where Faustino Garcia died on Feb. 12.

The circumstances of Garcia’s death are still unknown, as investigators pursue the case with precious few leads. But what is clear is that one man’s death ultimately touches us all.

In our coverage starting Feb. 15, Hood River News has striven to respect the family in its time of sorrow, and the memory of Faustino Garcia. We have tried to balance the feelings of the Garcias with the need of the public to understand the facts of the murder and the investigation.

A letter to the editor published Feb. 19 suggested that our page A1 photo on Feb. 15, of Garcia’s body being taken away from the scene, was insensitive. The writer also felt taking a photo of family in their home was an “invasion of privacy” in their time of grief.

The balance between facts and feelings usually works, but we understand the precariousness of that balance, and respect that some readers might regard as insensitive the way we cover tragedies. With that in mind, we offer this perspective on the coverage:

The package of three page A1 photos was carefully selected to show the work of investigators at the scene. The photo in question was cropped to depict the overall place and context. An image of death is never pleasant, but death was the story, and we chose a photo that best helped tell the story. We also wanted to ensure prominent placement of Faustino Garcia’s photo, the face of the man.

We are grateful to the Garcia family for loaning us the photo, and for allowing themselves to be photographed at an extremely difficult time. This is how it came about: a friend of the family called the newspaper saying they were willing to be interviewed. The news staff returned the call, asking permission to come to the home and to take the photo. Once the reporters arrived, the camera stayed off until they spoke with the family for about a half-hour. At that point, one family member was taken aside and asked if a photo could be taken. The request was repeated to the family, though with assurances that it was their right to decline, and they assented to being photographed.

The purpose of publishing the photo was not to intrude but to put faces on tragedy.

This is a small community. Frequently, news staff members in places such as Hood River know people directly involved in tragic news, or their family members, friends or neighbors. That means every day we accept the challenge of keeping facts and feelings in proper balances.

We understand one of our roles is that of chronicler: events of all kinds happen and we are there to report on them. We also accept another role — that of counselor, and the responsibility to present difficult information in ways that tell stories with empathy.

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