There seem to be a lot of “reporters” in Greenville, but they aren’t exactly good ones. In less than three weeks, three bodies have been found in Greenville.
The first body was found on Christmas Day in the 700 block of Clay Street.
Once I posted this information on the Delta Democrat-Times’ Facebook page, there were people immediately posting with certainty it must be the body of a local teenager who went missing this summer.
I was confused because according to the police report I was given only minutes prior to posting this news, officers said the remains were so decomposed it was impossible to guess the person’s age or gender. I confirmed this information with local authorities and they reaffirmed what the police report said.
Then, on Jan. 2, another body was found. This time, it was of a 60-year-old man found in a water-filled manhole in the 800 block of Washington Avenue. Because it was on the corner of a very public space in downtown Greenville near the Washington County Courthouse, it attracted a lot of attention. As a result, several residents gathered around officials as they worked the difficult task of removing the body. I saw pictures on social media of the man’s foot sticking out from under the manhole cover. I wish I hadn’t. I even heard someone was streaming live video of the process of removing the body, and I made a point not to see it.
Imagine if that person was your father, brother, husband, uncle, nephew, cousin or grandfather? Imagine knowing them and seeing that photo or video circulating for all to see. Imagine that was how you found out your loved one had died?
Posting images like that is just insensitive.
What purpose does it serve to show those images? Morbid curiosity? Proving you were the first to see something?
This isn’t a reality show. These are real people. They are your neighbors.
Also, you are doing nothing except getting in the way of people trying to do their jobs. Unless you have something purposeful to contribute, stay out of the way.
And, just this week, I received a third police report of another body found Sunday, this time in the 700 block of North Theobald Street.
I was getting phone calls first thing Monday morning, before I even knew there was a third body found, from people who wanted to know details.
I get that people are interested. This is, after all, why we do write news articles about these incidents. But why must we know “right now.”
I often wish we didn't live in this social media-centered society that has taught us to think we need immediate information on any topic or situation. No, we really don't.
In college, a common phrase I heard was, “If it bleeds, it leads.”
While I understand the phrase’s meaning, I don’t necessarily agree with it.
I have worked for managing editors who are hungry to take the first bite of a news story. They crave the ability to say they beat everyone else to a story. I admit I do enjoy being the first to “break the news” at times, but not at the expense of being a nuisance.
I was taught to pester and annoy officials until they tell me something one way or another. It was a practice I followed many times and, frankly, I never enjoyed it.
I have seen other newspapers and TV news stations report false information because they, too, craved the ability to be the ones to break the news. This mindset has caused some journalists to think information found on social media must be true if enough people share it, and so they run with it.
I don’t care if everyone in town is repeating the same story. I will never, ever, report on something until I get concrete details. I have seen false information spread from making that mistake and I do not want to be the person who publishes such, especially when it’s so easily avoidable.
The way I see it, the only people who need to be immediately concerned with crime news are the police and person or persons directly affected.
News reports can wait a while. There is absolutely no pressing need for anyone else to know about a dead body the very second it turns up.
Once I receive information from an official, I am always quick to write a story, post it to our website and then upload it to Facebook.
To people in the community, please stop trying to be a reporter. At the risk of sounding rude, you are terrible at it.
Stop thinking you need reports on deaths the second the police find out. Let law enforcement officials do their jobs and let your local journalists report on it when the time is appropriate.
Catherine Kirk is managing editor of the Delta Democrat-Times. She can be reached at email@example.com.