Brent Boyer

Brent Boyer

Brent Boyer: Telling Jenna's story

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Brent Boyer

Contact Editor Brent Boyer at 871-4221 or e-mail bboyer@SteamboatToday.com.

— Like so many of us, Jenna Erickson had fallen in love with Steamboat Springs and made it her home. She worked two jobs, loved being outdoors, gave selflessly of her time to volunteer with Steamboat Adaptive Recreational Sports and had a boyfriend.

She would have turned 23 on Saturday. Instead, her family and friends will mourn her death during a service in Maryland.

Jenna died tragically last weekend. It was snowing, and the road conditions along U.S. Highway 40 west of town were bad. Her car slid into the oncoming lane of traffic and was struck by a pickup. She was wearing her seat belt, but her injuries were too traumatic to overcome.

I won’t be so callous as to pretend to know what Jenna’s parents are going through as they process the tragic death of their child. All I can do is offer my most heartfelt condolences and pray that they’ll make it through this challenging time.

I know it wasn’t easy for the Ericksons to read about their child’s crash on SteamboatToday.com from the other side of the country. We’ve spent some time the past couple of days discussing our coverage of this incident and others. We’ve asked ourselves questions such as: How much information is appropriate in stories that deal with death? Which details are important for readers to know, and which aren’t? What is the best way to provide timely updates to readers while also respecting the sensitivity of the situation?

There are no easy answers to the above questions. Serious car crashes are newsworthy, especially when they result in the loss of life. There’s often a need to explain to readers what some of them may have seen while driving home from work. Beyond all of our natural human curiosity, we want to know if everything was OK, and if it involved someone we knew.

Accurate reporting on incidents such as Jenna’s can dispel rumors and clarify misinformation. It can provide answers to scenes witnessed by many, and it can offer difficult reminders that might prevent future tragedies. It also provides the opportunity to honor the deceased by telling their stories to the community.

Covering tragedies never gets easier, no matter how long you do it. But when our job calls for us to inform the community of sad news, we do it, even when we’d rather not. Our goal is to always do it with respect and to do it accurately.

None of this is important to the Ericksons today, nor should it be. What matters most is that Jenna is no longer with us. My thoughts will be with her family and friends this weekend as they gather in Maryland and Steamboat Springs. May they most remember all the wonderful time they had with Jenna and not the tragedy that brought it to an end.

Brent Boyer can be reached at 970-871-4221 or bboyer@SteamboatToday.com.

Comments

guerilla 3 years, 5 months ago

I knew Erica from Aloha's and every time I saw her she had a smile on her face and was just great. I think she is evidence of the old saying "The Good Die Young." I am still in shock and it is heartbreaking that such a beautiful girl with so much to offer had to go so young.

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REGENIA CAMPBELL 3 years, 5 months ago

I first would like to thank Brent Boyer for such a wonderful editorial.

I am a friend of the Erickson family and I will be with Jenna this evening in Maryland.

May be someday I will have the opportunity to visit your beautiful city, I have heard many lovely stories about Steamboat Springs..

Regenia

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bikerchix 3 years, 5 months ago

Thank you, Mr. Boyer, for addressing this issue in a sensitive manner. However, it should be clearly established that Jenna's parents learned of her accident and her death from the initial reporting of the accident in SteamboatToday. No one can blame the paper for the fact that the notification of the next of kin had not been made by the time Jenna's mother had made her usual log-in on your website on Sunday, which was her regular daily mid-morning habit. However, the details included in the story left virtually no doubt in the minds of Jenna's parents as to whom this tragic story was referring.

There is no question that you and your staff, at times like this, have an extremely difficult and unenviable job. In your own words, you are to be commended for reporting the story of the accident with respect and with accuracy. However, accuracy does not require the inclusion of superfluous details, and, indeed, basic journalistic tenets discourage the use of them. As for the curiosity of readers and witnesses, I can only opine that the notification of loved ones in a situation such as this is of paramount importance, and should take precedence over other considerations.

As mentioned, I am grateful for the sensitivity and respect you and the staff of SteamboatToday have exhibited in this situation. I'm just asking that, when reporting a tragic occurrence such as this, you put yourself in a parent's place and consider if this is the way you'd want to find out. The inclusion of those details was either inexpert reporting, or it was an intentional attempt to establish the identification of the accident victim, information that the coroner would not yet publicly release. I will leave the determination of which of the two is accurate to you.

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bcpow 3 years, 5 months ago

bikerchix said it much nicer than I would have.
But still... A subaru with co plates is one thing. You gave too much info and now look like insensitive idiots. Didn't you have a picture of some trophy home that is for sale at a deep discount instead of Jenna's wrecked vehicle?
Send in the clowns.

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