Gardner Flanigan: Apology needed


As I picked up the Steamboat Today on Tuesday morning, I was instantly disappointed at the lack of judgment and compassion your editors chose with their need to show the picture of children overcome with grief at Asher’s memorial. You had such an opportunity to share a visual image of our community coming together to celebrate the life of a remarkable child.

I am sure in some circles there will be a discussion of good photo journalism — perhaps the Pilot & Today finally caught the moment of grief that all in our community have shared this past week — but I would disagree. Good photo journalism should be aligned with good journalism. And if anyone read the article that Tom Ross wrote (Well written, Tom. Thank you.) you could correctly conclude that the photo and the article were two entirely different stories, and I simply do not believe that is good journalism.

I don’t know where this decision was made, but it was a poor decision. This isn’t New York City or Boston or London. This is Steamboat Springs. And this is a free newspaper. You had the singular opportunity to help our community make sense of a senseless event, and you chose to sensationalize a small moment of an otherwise uplifting celebration of Asher’s life at the expense of the children who knew and loved him best.

I not only believe you owe Mike, John and his sons an apology, I believe you owe our community an apology for overstepping the boundary of respectful and decent journalism.

Gardner Flanigan

Steamboat Springs


christopher dreher 3 years, 10 months ago

so if this was a bigger city like new york or boston we could have handled a sad apology necessary, thank you pilot for covering the story....


Scott Wedel 3 years, 10 months ago

I think the comparison to a big city is irrelevant. In a big city they have coverage of memorials for children pretty often. But I don't recall those newspapers ever showing close up photographs of children grieving.

It doesn't matter who said it was okay. No one should be asked that question at a memorial. Maybe they will have second thoughts in a few weeks or years. Newspaper photos are forever and public. Are we so sure that those pictured and identified will be so well adjusted later on that they will always be sure it was a good decision to have had close up photographs in the newspaper?

Also, some people are more private and know they do not want to be photographed at a memorial. Is there willingness to go to a memorial affected by the paper's willingness to publish close up photos of kids mourning?

My question for the paper is what made publishing the photos okay in this case? Are murder victims more important than accidental deaths or from disease? Is there a particular age of the victim that makes it more important? This area has had adults and children die unexpectedly without showing photos of children grieving.


Scott Wedel 3 years, 10 months ago

Yeah, the assassination of the USA President is comparable to the death of a local child and warrant similar coverage.

Look at a the newspaper of a major city. See how long it takes to find an article about the death, or murder, of a child. Sometimes the memorial service will be newsworthy. But they still will very rarely publish close up pictures of mourning children.


Brian Kotowski 3 years, 10 months ago

Mark nailed it. People complaining about how the principals may feel about the media coverage are, in fact, entirely unaware of the principals' perspective and are only projecting their own irritation onto their pet soapbox. Absent a statement from Mr. Kirlan (who has other things on his mind, I'm sure), this caterwauling is arrogant and self-centered in the extreme. I'm content to let the family speak for itself. And whether they choose to or not, it's their business and nobody else's.


mark hartless 3 years, 10 months ago

The Offended States of America...populated with ostridges who refuse to believe there could be any evidence of man's fallen state in their little picture perfect Utopia; and not only refusing to acknowledge it, but casting their ire towards the painters of the not-so-Utopian picture.

And not ONE of these clowns would bother to condemn the person who is actually responsible for bringing all this grief into this community.... I wonder if they even know who that is...


Alvin Wolff 3 years, 10 months ago

The papers duty is to print the news. Unfortunately it can't always be Cotten candy and daffodils. Murder is murder. It is news. Losing an athlete is news. A mother murdering her son is news. Public mournings are news. If Mike wanted privacy, that could have been arranged. As sad as everything is, it's news. Most of the news the pilot prints is happy stuff. Life is not always about happiness. Sometimes it's plain tragic and the paper has done a remarkable job covering this horror.


Scott Wedel 3 years, 10 months ago

Yes, it is news. No one is suggesting the story should not have been covered. The question is whether it crosses a line and appears to be exploitative to publish close up pictures of children grieving


john bailey 3 years, 10 months ago

gosh mark are you nuts? we can't have the great Oz just doing 1 thing, why, we would be lost on this blog. jeez man , get a grip......~;0)...jejeje


Melanie Turek 3 years, 10 months ago

I thought the photo was beautiful. It captured the grief and sadness of the event, but it also showed enormous humanity, to see Mr. Kirlan, despite his own enormous grief, comforting his son's best friend. I saw it and cried, but that is certainly appropriate given the events. I don't know Mr. Kirlan and I didn't know his son, but for me, the picture was worth well more than 1000 words.


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