Good information about bad stuff

Good information right at the time of large-scale tragedy can be hard to find. The right information is even tougher.

The loss of 16 people in a rural automobile accident is a hard thing to report on. Some of our readers have wondered why we haven’t been, other than in our shared grief that appears in last week’s Western Producer editorial.

The daily press is better placed to cover this type of news and information. I don’t envy them their work very often, especially when it comes to handling a tragedy of this magnitude. No matter how one does it, the chances of not getting the details right are very high. And the pressure to report quickly is equally so.

But society needs to know — not only so it can grieve but also to make change where it can be made.

In the early days following the Humboldt Broncos accident, and even quite recently, speculation appeared to become fact. Speculation is what humans do when they are piecing together an understanding of something they feel the need to know about. They take what is apparent and try to make it real.

Reporters and editors look at what is known to be real and attempt to find the missing pieces of reality to report on.

When it comes to telling the tale of an accident like the one on Saskatchewan’s Highway 35, media don’t leave out much.

We try to tell these stories in ways that can help folks quickly come to the best understanding of a situation that is possible. Because we don’t have all the information in the early going, we put out anything that will help to put the information we have into context. That helps you rule out ideas about gaps in the information that are obviously wrong.

Maps and photographs are often the first tools to assist in understanding of news events. Firsthand reports are second. These are done in conjunction with lists and related contextual information like timelines. Then come expert opinions, often just educated speculation. Information graphics follow that.

As the facts of a tragedy like Humboldt roll out over time, speculations that would have, generations before, become myths are replaced with knowledge and clear hindsight. And from these, higher-quality decisions about change are arrived at. I don’t know what we will learn from this, but I am sure we will. And we will change some things based on good information.


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