We’ve challenged others to do it; but sadly, reluctantly, it’s our turn to walk the walk

The plan was to open this week’s editorial with another tirade about the comedy-of-errors that has become the Olympic torch relay and then take a few more shots at the notion that the upcoming Beijing Olympic Games are somehow credible and legitimized because a handful of politicians and the International Olympic Committee say they are.

The plan was to open this week’s editorial with another tirade about the comedy-of-errors that has become the Olympic torch relay and then take a few more shots at the notion that the upcoming Beijing Olympic Games are somehow credible and legitimized because a handful of politicians and the International Olympic Committee say they are.

And for a bit of added effect, I was also going to bring up the fact that since they’ve decided to run their joke-of-a-torch relay through Tibet, China is now flaunting the rest of the world and is basically suggesting that, “we’ll do whatever the hell we want to, and you still better show up for our Olympic Games, or else”.

From there, I had planned on some sort of jump into the Stanley Cup playoffs and throw out a few predictions just to rattle the masses such as: Go Habs!, and how the Senators just might pull off the upset of the season against Pittsburgh and how the Flames were going down in a…well… a ball of flames against the San Jose Sharks. I’m glad I didn’t though because the Flames are looking very good.

But after the news broke of the tragic highway collision involving a school bus last Wednesday morning, everything changed.

Shortly after word began to trickle out about the story, the phones started ringing at our office with most of the calls coming from genuinely concerned people from near and far who were either seeking a bit of information or to express their deep concern and sorrow over the incident.

Unfortunately, we also had to field calls and visits from big city media types desperately seeking any tidbit of information they could – no matter how trivial or unrelated it may have been.

Once they converged here, these media types became like starving vultures involved in some sort of game or competition whereby one was prepared to go to any length to get the “scoop” on the other.

However, in their rampage to get the better of their competition, the big city media, most notably the daily newspapers, overlooked the fact that while one family was grieving the loss of a child, another was racing up to Edmonton where their child was in critical condition.

But that’s the way it is in the ultra-competitive, no-holds-barred world of big city daily newspapers, I guess.

The dailies will point to the fact that they’re only doing their jobs and that they’re justified in the way they report the story because after all; a school bus was involved, fatal collisions are an every-day occurrence on Alberta’s highways and this particular incident effects only a relatively small number of people – most notably the immediate family.

And they’re right – at least about the bus and the highways.

It’s the same old story. The big city dailies are only interested in rural news when it’s bad; and when it is they’re quick to over-sensationalize it, no matter how many people beyond the immediate family, this tragedy has touched.

And who can blame them. They don’t live here, they’ve probably never met the victim or her family and they don’t seem to care much about the emotional wounds that remain in the aftermath that in some cases could take years to heal.

You don’t have to go very far to see proof of it either. For a trip to your local newsstand and a bit of pocket change, you’ll get a plethora of daily newspapers to choose from, all of which are trying to grab your attention with the most salacious of headlines, the most disturbing of stories and the most graphic of photographs on their front pages so you the reader will select them over their competitors.

But the big city dailies have neglected to consider that this tragedy could have a profound effect on countless other people as well. What about the drivers of the bus, the SUV and the truck that were involved in the collision? What about the workers at the nearby auto body shop who first heard the collision and then the subsequent screams coming from within and around the site of the tragedy? Or how about the effect this has had on the fine, dedicated and hardworking men and women of Rimbey’s emergency services? Even the most experienced police officers, firefighters and ambulance attendants must have felt their hearts in their throats when they realized that they were racing to an accident scene involving a school bus. What about all of them?

How about the principals, teachers and support staff at our schools? What about all the parents of those students and the brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, grandparents, co-workers, neighbours and acquaintances that were panic-stricken when they heard the news?

I guess the big city dailies don’t care much for their emotional wellbeing either.

And if that isn’t enough to make them a bit queezy by what they see in the mirror every morning, how about the effect this tragedy has had on the eight or nine other kids who were on the bus that thankfully walked away unharmed?

By uploading photographs of the collision site on their web page within minutes of the incident, the big city newspapers don’t seem to care very much about the emotional health and wellbeing of those kids either.

From what I’ve gathered, this newspaper’s been down that road before, and we’re not going back. For one reason or another, a photograph of a vehicle involved in the tragic deaths of the late Betty and Chris Harvey was published in these pages and as a result, this office was inundated with calls from extremely irate readers appalled at being subjected to the picture, in light of how impacting and profound the loss of the Harvey couple was, and rightfully so.

If you happened to be one of those who expressed their deep concern and disappointment over the publishing of the photograph in question, good for you for standing up – not only for the grieving family and friends of the deceased, but for the entire community.

Of course, we have a responsibility to report the facts about this and other tragedies that happen locally – and we have. But by no means does that give us, or any other media outlet, the right to hound those who may only be starting to come to grips with this news – especially when it involves one of our own and especially so soon after the incident.

Are the families and friends connected to this tragedy not entitled to, at the very least, an hour or two to grieve without having a tape recorder or a camera thrust in their faces?

I think we all know the answer to that question.

But that’s the, Welcome to the Jungle-mentality of big city daily newspapers, I guess. How else can one explain such heartlessness?

Critics of this newspaper can accuse the Rimbey Review of being irresponsible or even lazy for not capitalizing fully of this terrible story, and justified or not, we’ll take that hit.

But one thing this newspaper can never be accused of – at least under the current editorship, is sacrificing our social consciousness, our sense of compassion for our fellow residents – whether we know them personally or not, or the respect of our readers by exploiting a tragic series of events that, in time, will most likely turn out to be the absolute worst day in the lives of many of local people.

We’ll leave that to the big city dailies.

The Rimbey Review would like to extend our sincere condolences to the family, friends and all who have been affected by the tragic losses of Jennifer Dawn Noble and the late Betty and Chris Harvey.