Sometimes, the news does not come easy
Monday afternoon, after the Band-A-Rama, Veterans Day Parade and Veterans Day Tea, I was about to go home. But, the news would not let me.
Veterans Days are usually a fun day and not that challenging. Covering parades, band performances and the tea are not that difficult and certainly a lot of fun.
At just about the end of the day, the public safety scanner went off: Structure fire at 335 W. Orange. Then, the dispatcher added, it was a commercial building which can mean a large fire.
My photographer, Chieko Hara, went with me and as we drove out I said I hoped it would be nothing because it would be nice to go home a little early. However, as soon as we got from behind our building on Third Street, you could see the smoke a mile away and I knew we’d be a while.
The fire burned a vacant small auto repair shop. Luckily, the building was old and run down and no one was injured and no one lost their home.
Not all stories are quite so simple. The past few weeks we have seen a few stories that were not easy and carried a lot of importance.
The first was the miscommunication mess at Changala’s Pumpkin Patch where the allegation of racism was quickly being spread around town.
When we first got a call about 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 23, we knew it was a story that we would need to look into, but on the surface it did not appear to be something that would quickly turn into a dangerous fire storm.
By the time reporter Esther Aliva was finishing her story that evening, we heard over the scanner that there had been a minor disturbance at the pumpkin patch that by that point had become the target of many angry and vicious comments on Facebook.
As we learned, kindergarten teachers at Summit Charter Academy had sent a note home to parents saying they were being denied a field trip to the patch because they spoke Spanish, which was not the case. The poorly written letter obviously, and if correct, rightfully, got people angry.
In speaking with both school people and the Changalas, we found the story to be a little different and was not a case of racism as some alleged. It was then, we decided to go against normal practice and we put the story on our website and on Facebook that night to hopefully quell some of the anger. Normally, we post stories for the next day after midnight, but we made an exception.
Well, it seemed to help and the next day the whole matter was resolved and the kindergarteners got their visit.
Another story that was difficult was the suicides of two young girls in this community over a span of 10 days. Newspapers typically do not report on suicides and there are several reasons for that. One, it is a devastating thing for a family. Second, suicide is usually a very private thing. And, more importantly, officials have said that one suicide can lead to another and we certainly do not want to contribute to another suicide.
However, two young lives lost in 10 days was simply too significant to ignore. The community needed to know, and more importantly needed to know what they could do to speak to their own children and what local schools were doing.
We take our responsibility in covering those type of stories very seriously and had held off on the first young girl’s death for the reasons I stated above. I hope we never have to report on any more young people taking their lives, but again, Esther Avila did a great job with the story.
The same is true with the pumpkin patch story. We take charges of racism very seriously and will fight against racism in any form. But, we also don’t want such allegations getting out of hand to where someone is injured or killed.
It was nice on Monday to get back to our annual Veterans Day coverage, even though the fire was another reminder of the other side of this business.
Rick Elkins is editor of the Porterville Recorder. He can be reached at 784-5000, ext. 1040, or by e-mail at email@example.com. You can also follow him on Twitter.