With Respect

In tragedy, balancing facts and feelings

It was touching to see that three floral bouquets have been placed at the grassy lot where Faustino Garcia died on Feb. 12.

The circumstances of Garcia’s death are still unknown, as investigators pursue the case with precious few leads. But what is clear is that one man’s death ultimately touches us all.

In our coverage starting Feb. 15, Hood River News has striven to respect the family in its time of sorrow, and the memory of Faustino Garcia. We have tried to balance the feelings of the Garcias with the need of the public to understand the facts of the murder and the investigation.

A letter to the editor published Feb. 19 suggested that our page A1 photo on Feb. 15, of Garcia’s body being taken away from the scene, was insensitive. The writer also felt taking a photo of family in their home was an “invasion of privacy” in their time of grief.

The balance between facts and feelings usually works, but we understand the precariousness of that balance, and respect that some readers might regard as insensitive the way we cover tragedies. With that in mind, we offer this perspective on the coverage:

The package of three page A1 photos was carefully selected to show the work of investigators at the scene. The photo in question was cropped to depict the overall place and context. An image of death is never pleasant, but death was the story, and we chose a photo that best helped tell the story. We also wanted to ensure prominent placement of Faustino Garcia’s photo, the face of the man.

We are grateful to the Garcia family for loaning us the photo, and for allowing themselves to be photographed at an extremely difficult time. This is how it came about: a friend of the family called the newspaper saying they were willing to be interviewed. The news staff returned the call, asking permission to come to the home and to take the photo. Once the reporters arrived, the camera stayed off until they spoke with the family for about a half-hour. At that point, one family member was taken aside and asked if a photo could be taken. The request was repeated to the family, though with assurances that it was their right to decline, and they assented to being photographed.

The purpose of publishing the photo was not to intrude but to put faces on tragedy.

This is a small community. Frequently, news staff members in places such as Hood River know people directly involved in tragic news, or their family members, friends or neighbors. That means every day we accept the challenge of keeping facts and feelings in proper balances.

We understand one of our roles is that of chronicler: events of all kinds happen and we are there to report on them. We also accept another role — that of counselor, and the responsibility to present difficult information in ways that tell stories with empathy.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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