The news media are frequently criticized for focusing on tragedy, but it must also be said that it is human nature to be transfixed by tragic events.
Apart from the timing, there was little to connect the shooting death of a man who was stalking his estranged wife and the calamitous crash in Aquinnah. Occurring as the springlike weather suddenly turned cold, however, they seem paired in the Island’s collective consciousness as though ushered in with the chill in the air. Wherever people gathered — in coffee shops, in grocery aisles, even on Facebook pages — the dominant topic seemed to be the cluster of bad news and speculation about what happened and why.
News of this type unfolds in a familiarly chaotic way. First come the rumors, followed by bits of information from official and non-official sources. The job of news organizations like the Gazette is to track down the facts and piece these together. Confirming and discrediting rumors, deciding what is relevant and what is not, and publishing as factual an account as possible is the essence of good journalism. With much of our readership now relying on news from our web site, we must make these deliberations more quickly than we have in the past. We believe we have made these decisions carefully and well, but welcome reactions from our readership.
In covering tragic events, our objective is not to “sell papers” or promote prurient interest in unpleasant things. Sometimes, our goal is simply to alert people to issues that involve public safety. More often, we want to provide a framework for our readers to judge events based on what actually occurred, as best we can sort that out. Part of our role is also to keep a watchful eye on government, and that includes law enforcement. In doing these thing, we try to remain respectful of how our inquiries can affect our neighbors and friends.
We are fortunate on the Vineyard to have good relationships with police, who understand the value of the media in providing quick, accurate information to the public. Cape and Island’s District Attorney Michael O’Keefe has been less forthcoming with information, saying media coverage does little to advance the cause of justice.
We have no reason to doubt the soundness of the decision by the Cape and Islands District Attorney’s office not to charge Cynthia Bloomquist in the death of her husband. We do, however, believe the public has an interest in knowing exactly how decisions like these are made, and we will continue to push for transparency.