Your View: KOMU 8 responds to releasing names before officials

1 year 1 month 1 week ago December 04, 2015 Dec 4, 2015 Friday, December 04 2015 Friday, December 04, 2015 2:58:00 PM CST in Your View
By: Stephanie Sierra and Desiree Seals, KOMU 8 Reporters
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COLUMBIA - Two weeks ago, KOMU 8 reported on a shooting that left three people dead in Randolph County. 

After reaching out to the coroners office, KOMU 8 released the names of the three involved in the shooting before Randolph County Sheriff's did.

In most news stories involving deaths, reporters aren't able to confirm information until officials annouce it. In this case, KOMU was able to get confirmation from the coroner that was able to identify and report the names of the individuals. 

In response to the early release, several viewers expressed their anger.

Tricia Cochran Sexauer wrote: "Saw on the news names yesterday and was disgusted when they said 'this isn't official' like that was going to make it better."

Similarly, Dustin White responded: "Don't worry KOMU, you shared the names a few days ago. You beat the sheriff's department to it."

It just so happened, on that same day another incident involving two people who died in a crash in Montgomery County spurred more crticism on our Facebook page.

Jimmy Dennis commented: "Quick tell us who it was. So we can all speculate and assume what happened and place fault."

Connie Fleming added: "Hope no names are released until family is notified."

We talked to Randy Reeves, news director at KOMU 8 about the decision to share the names.

"This story was of a compelling community interest and we wanted to get the information out after we were reasonably sure that everyone had been notified," said Reeves. 

We reached out to Communications Law professor, Sandy Davidson, after reviewing our feedback on Facebook to see what she thought about the ethics of KOMU 8's coverage.

"If you have any doubts, you know, if you wonder, then you have to pull back," Davidson said.

"Ethically, I think the important thing is that the family members were notified prior to the release of the information by the media."

A "Go-fund-me-page" was posted to KOMU 8's Facebook page by family members of the people involved. This page served as another piece of confirmation that the family members knew of the deaths of their loved ones. 

"You try to engage in social media as best you can, you know it's a fairly constant conversation. You try to explain to folks that we've gotten this information from people who know."

So, what do you think? Do you think KOMU 8 was wrong to release the names of the victims before officials?

The conversation does end here.  Let us know on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus. Then watch KOMU 8 News Fridays at six for your view of the news.

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