Dear redbankgreen reader:
In haste and without consideration about how it would affect those named, I posted a news article on Sunday that contained information I should have known would cause great pain across the community I cover, and in particular, to a family already suffering an unspeakable shock.
The article was about a “lockdown” situation in Rumson prompted by the suicide at home of a young man. It included the names of his parents as the homeowners. As a large number of commenters have noted, that was insensitive and added nothing to a reader’s understanding of what the article was intended to address. I agree.
Generally speaking, suicides don’t get reported here unless they involve a prominent person, happen in a public manner or are otherwise in some way “newsworthy.” Neither of the first two criteria applied in this case, and on that basis what occurred inside the house wasn’t something I would have written about.
Instead, the impetus for the story was what happened outside the house: a massive turnout of heavily armed law enforcement — the Monmouth County Emergency Response Team — called in after local police responded to the original 911 call. Rumson Country Day School sent out an email informing its community that the school and its surroundings were in “lockdown,” and that borough police were using the parking lot as a staging area for an unspecified “incident.” In addition, I received several urgent messages from readers wondering what was going on. The scene I came upon was unprecedented in the 11-year history of redbankgreen. Without question it was a legitimate subject of public interest.
I wrote the article not to report a suicide, but rather, to explain a perceived emergency that unfortunately had a suicide at its core. But in my zeal to treat this like a story about a fire or crash, I included the names of the homeowners, obtained from tax records, as is my custom in such stories. That was unnecessary and inconsiderate to a family just then suffering a profound shock and loss. In defaulting to hard-nosed newsman mode, I ignored the feelings of those at the heart of the matter, who had done nothing to deserve such insensitivity.
I have belatedly removed the family’s name from the story, and hope to learn from this experience, starting with the acknowledgement that I need to dial back my haste, and to allow more room for sensitivity to those most vulnerable in whatever I’m writing about.
Meantime, I offer this apology to everyone who was hurt and dismayed, most especially the family of the deceased. I’m sorry to have made an terrible situation even worse.
John T. Ward