Editor’s note – Fire reporting is part of the job

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt April 23, 2014
Photo of trees in Avondale Estates. Source: Avondaleestates.org

Photo of trees in Avondale Estates. Source: Avondaleestates.org

There was a fire in Avondale Estates on April 12 that claimed the lives of two people.

It was a horrific event, one that has left this close-knit community in mourning. Mayor Ed Rieker told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that it was the worst tragedy to strike the community in “at least two generations.”

Decaturish.com has published several articles about the fire. The articles have focused on the event itself, the outpouring of community support for the Willadsen family and the potential causes of the fire.

That last subject has been difficult for some people in the community. Behind the scenes, we’ve received pushback for our coverage.

On April 23 a reader posted a comment that summed up the general sentiment of people who have taken issue with it.

“You are making mess of this,” the commenter said. “Please stop.”

As a reporter and editor I take full ownership of what we do. If we get something wrong, we fix it. If we make a misstep in our reporting of a story, we try to tread more carefully in the future. The pushback comes from a place of pain. I completely understand that. I’ve tried to report the story in a way that respects the parties involved.

But I disagree that we should simply stop covering this. The story involves a matter of public safety. The questions we ask are the ones a lot of you probably asked when you heard about it.

Why did this happen? What could be done to prevent it in the future?

Our intent here is to inform readers in a way that prioritizes the privacy of the family while reporting information of general interest.

We will continue to follow this story wherever it leads while taking great care to remember that behind those public records there are real people who lost their lives. They are loved and they are missed, and we won’t ever forget that.

Finding out how this tragedy happened matters. The only way to find out is to ask questions.

We feel that is our role and responsibility as a news website.

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of Decaturish.com. https://www.linkedin.com/in/danwhisenhunt

View all posts by Dan Whisenhunt

  • Brandon

    I agree Dan. The only thing that could make this tragedy worse is if we don’t learn from it and ignore ways to prevent tragedies like it from happening in the future. This is never easy..

    Last week seven years ago, a friend of mine was the first person killed in the deadliest shooting rampage in American history. The tragedy at Virginia Tech was a horrible event, but the slow strides taken in mental health treatment and protection of schools is its own tragedy. Both break my heart.

  • Scott McFarland

    I totally agree and I appreciate your coverage. I am eagerly waiting for the results of the investigation because I’ve been thinking daily about what I could do to prevent this tragedy from happening to my own family.

  • Daren Wang

    This is one of the challenges with a hyper-local news source. When the AJC does this kind of coverage, it’s ok because they are “other”. But you are a neighbor and a friend to the community and when you take on something personal and uncomfortable, people tend to react to you as such. Sooner or later, people will come to understand that you are doing what is right.

  • Eric Strunz

    Many thanks for your work reporting on this tragedy, Dan. I deeply respect your efforts to be transparent and open about the input you’ve received from the community.

    • Thank you Eric and thanks to all of you who have commented here.

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