Rough-drafting history is slow going

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Local newspapers are often referred to as the “rough draft of history.” This last year has been an interesting one to scribble about. In the decades to come, as science and reason and history come together and find agreement with legitimate data that emerges, it will be interesting to see where the weight of responsibility falls when it comes to pandemic-related damages. In our litigation-happy society, there are potentially millions of lawsuits on the horizon.

Will the hammer of justice fall upon those who promoted mask-wearing and social distancing as simple tasks to prevent or slow the spread of the pandemic holding them liable for economic damages? Or will the hammer fall on those who turned public health guidelines into a political statement for their own benefit (or due to their own ignorance)? Will those voices be held liable for damages, including medical costs or death benefits?

In our lawsuit-happy society, neither are improbable. It’s a good time to pursue that law degree, those of you out there who’ve been considering going back to school. There’s a good possibility lawsuits will abound in the days ahead as people trace COVID infections to specific situations, and then tie those situations to specific organizations.

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Investigative journalism is a slow-moving game. It takes time and person-power to compile the necessary information. There are open records requests to be filed and fulfilled, sometimes at cost to the requester. There are interviews with often reluctant interviewees to be tracked down.

In today’s media climate, not having an immediate answer to every question isn’t considered normal. But delay is actually normal when you are looking for the truth.

For example, I’ve been waiting months to get the results of the investigation into the death of Laurie French last fall. I’ve been in touch multiple times with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the local District Attorney’s office, waiting for the completion of the investigation. Is it frustrating? Of course. We like TV crime drama turnaround that happens somewhere between the 40 and 50 minute mark. But that’s not reality.

If you’re a fan of instantaneous information, you might wonder why you aren’t seeing stories right away. Let’s think of it like this: Instant is great when it comes to popcorn (and most of us are so freakishly impatient we stand at the microwave and count the pops so we know just when to open the door… admit it). Instant isn’t so great when it comes to people’s lives. Instant leaves too much room for error.

We’re spoiled by instant “news” these days. I remember being in a training meeting in the late ‘90s about how to use the internet and being awed by the way the news headlines changed every few minutes. It’s great to get news fast, but it also needs to be accurate, and accuracy and speed do not always coexist.


By NIKI TURNER | niki@ht1885.com

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