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HELSTON: Behind the scenes with reporters and mourners

Charlotte Helston is a reporter with InfoTel News.
June 27, 2014 - 8:07 AM

When someone’s death impacts the community, reporters have an uncomfortable job to do.

We want to respect the privacy of the deceased’s friends and family at one of the worst times of their lives, but we also have a duty to the public. People care and they want to know.

An unexpected and shocking death like that of Vernon teacher Linda Ross, who was allegedly murdered by her boyfriend before he attempted suicide, lacks the closure of a straightforward death. It shakes the community and people demand answers.

It’s not easy interviewing people close to the victim, asking them to open up and share. But no one should be remembered merely as a victim.

Shortly after I was hired as a reporter for InfoNews, I covered a trial in a hit and run that killed a schoolmate of mine at Pleasant Valley Secondary in Armstrong.

“Every parent should have a story about their child they can tape to their fridge,” my editor told me. So we wrote a story about who Kiera-Leigh Carlson was, not just how she died.

Since then I’ve interviewed other people who lost loved ones and they don’t always hang up the phone. Many want to speak about their loved ones, to share stories of better days and let the community know who it lost.

Looking up family members in the phone book and scouring Facebook pages for acquaintances may sound insensitive, but you never how someone will feel about a reporter calling until you ask. Last year, the family of a senior killed in a tragic care home attack publicly released his name so people “would know who it was instead of him always being referred to as the victim.”

Believe me, making those phone calls isn’t easy, but if they can add meaning to a senseless crime, help people in the community understand what happened, or just give a parent something they can stick on their fridge, I think it’s worth it.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at chelston@infotelnews.ca or call 250-309-5230. To contact the editor, email mjones@infotelnews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014
InfoTel News Ltd

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