Tifton Gazette


December 7, 2013

Our Opinion for Dec. 28

A story appeared on our front page this week that has caused a firestorm of controversy – not our intention.

We began following a story about a former Tifton resident after receiving calls from local residents who said, “Hey, this story should be in the paper.” We agreed.

The first three stories told of a man who had lived here, but died in another city. There were questions surrounding his death, and we continued to follow the story, which took an unexpected turn. We were just as surprised as anyone at the outcome.

Regardless, we took the information in an affidavit, along with police reports, and wrote a factual story, answering the previously unanswered questions.

In the first couple of stories, we quoted local residents who had memories of a wonderful man who had, along with his family, done wonderful things for this community.

But those were quickly forgotten when the fourth story in the series was published.

We grant you the outcome was shocking. We agree that it was certainly unsavory. But we stand behind our decision to publish it. It was never our intention to embarrass the family, nor to tarnish the man’s memory. We simply followed through and reported the outcome of the police investigation.

We received commentary that accused us of yellow journalism, saying that we “dragged that poor man’s name through the mud.”

We respectfully disagree. What we unintentionally did was rub salt in an old wound. We, the editorial board of this newspaper, being newer in town, had no idea of any history. We knew nothing of any rumors that may have swirled in years past. We obviously touched a nerve by reporting the story.

In fact, we were approached by some who felt it was also our duty to do another story, and report on those rumors. We declined. To do so would, in fact, tarnish a man’s name and reputation, and would appear as yellow as it gets. That is not how we do things.

What we did this week is what we will continue to do...we will continue to report the news that impacts this community. We will continue to bring you stories that will touch your hearts. We will continue to report the things that matter to you...the things that make you think...the things that make you talk. We will continue to bring you factual coverage of news, even if it’s not pleasant.

Living in a smaller town is a wonderful thing. You know everyone and you are known by everyone. And when you call your local paper and say, “Hey, this story should be in the paper,” we listen. Not everyone would. That’s the beauty – and even sometimes the curse – of small town newspapers.

There were those who said they wanted to know this man had died, but they didn’t need to know anything beyond that.

If this story had been about someone unknown here, it’s highly likely we wouldn’t have heard a peep. People would have been eager to know all the gritty details.

We acknowledge that there is a positive side to this – people in Tifton look out for one another. People jumped to this man’s defense quickly, and often, in the past few days. This is also a wonderful thing about living in a small town.

We leave you with this commentary: Regardless of any reported facts or investigator’s findings, there are memories of a man here in Tifton who was kind and gentle, a man whose skills saved lives and helped others. He was a man who gave back to his community, and who clearly loved the town he called home.

Let’s just all focus on that.

Dan Sutton, Publisher

Angye Morrison, Editor

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