BASS: Death is hard enough to deal with without the added ‘facts’

There are times when, in a zealousness to push some kind of public-safety agenda, public agencies drive me crazy.

What’s worse is when my own industry grabs hold of these moments and runs with them.

Such an instance happened this week when I heard a newscaster intone about the tragic death of Nick Guido that police and the coroner had “confirmed he had alcohol in his system.”

At least one online report of the man’s death at Sun Peaks also included that fact.

There’s no doubt it’s a fact; the coroner confirmed it.

The problem with that “fact” is it now takes over the story and turns it upside down.

Now, Guido’s family, already coping with the incomprehensible for a second time in the last eight years — his brother also died tragically after he was hit by a driver who ran a red light — must deal with the implication of that “fact.”

He must have been drunk.

That’s why it happened.

Who cares?

How does that change anything here other than add a colour to the story that really doesn’t need to be there?

It’s just something that torques up the pain the Guido family and all of this young man’s friends are experiencing.

I should admit this use of irrelevant or superfluous language has happened in my own family.

A 17-year-old girl I loved deeply died in a motor-vehicle accident.

She was alone in the car, heading to pick up her aunt before going to a nearby farmers’ market, when the car  missed a curve on a back road and hit a hydro pole, which fell on the car and killed her.

The story in the newspaper the next day mentioned my friend had recently started driving in stock-car races.

The implication? Well, obviously, she was racing along that road.

It didn’t matter there was nothing indicate any undue amount of speed.

I called the police to find that out myself, taking advantage of knowing the investigating officer.

But, there it was — a completely new spin on what was a monumental tragedy for so many people.

There are times when foolish behaviour needs to be part of the story because it is simply is a relevant fact that can’t be overlooked.

I’m thinking of John Gibbons, a man most knew as a belligerent, mostly homeless, alcohol-abusing street person.

Those are cruel adjectives, but they are integral to Gibbons’ death — it was truly the result of his lifestyle.

But, for Guido, a few drinks with his buddies as they celebrated a birthday shouldn’t be the defining way he is remembered.

I’d like to see a story on what kind of protection there is around the pillar he hit as he came down the hill on the crazy carpet.

I’d like to know why going down the hill on a crazy carpet is not permitted because of the dangers inherent.

But, more than that, I’d like to see stories stop being spun and reporters stop buying into them without asking questions.

How many times have you read about a person who is “known to police?”

For what? Be specific because, otherwise, it could be something minor, but the reader is left with the image of someone who is a pox on society.

Some “known to police” are.

Some “known to police” are not.

If one suspects “alcohol may have been involved,” tell us how. Don’t just throw it out there because it could very well be it isn’t a vital part of the story.

When Guido’s brother was killed, KTW ran a column that only served to redefine the 85-year-old driver of the car that killed him.

Maybe the senior was a war hero. Someone’s grandpa. A community leader.

Who cares? Just the facts, please.

When we start embellishing without asking if this is really relevant, we hurt people.

Sure, maybe Guido had a few drinks the night he died. The fact remains he is dead — and that’s hard enough for his family without all the other stuff.

Dale Bass is a reporter with Kamloops This Week. Her email address is here. Her blog can be found here.



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