By Shereen Siewert, Editor
Wausau Pilot and Review
Few people living in and around the Wausau area will ever forget the tragic events that unfolded on the afternoon of March 22, when four people, including a decorated police detective, were killed in a shooting rampage that rocked the community. The shootings scarred us all, leaving family and friends of the fallen in unspeakable pain.
On Tuesday, when the Wisconsin Department of Justice released its final report on the tragedy, one that cleared the officers involved of any wrongdoing, the news should have been a salve on the wounds of all those affected. It should have been a comfort to everyone involved, from the families of the victims to fellow officers, many of whom were at the scene when Everest Metro Police Detective Jason Weiland was killed. It should have been a final chapter of sorts, setting straight any misinformation that might have circulated in the early days of the investigation, putting to rest any questions about the motives of the officers, and allowing the community to move on.
But that didn’t happen.
Instead, a number of media outlets chose to publish and air graphic photos, video clips, and audio taken directly from the scene, pulling the bandage off the wounds that have only now just started to heal.
Those photos, video clips, and audio recordings are all public record. They were supplied to media outlets by the Department of Justice because viewing them can help reporters give readers an accurate representation of the events that took place and the reasons for the DOJ decision not to pursue criminal charges against any officer involved.
In these situations, journalists have a choice: Use the information to tell the story, or let the media evidence tell the story for you. Publishing the media evidence to grab headlines isn’t illegal, but in this situation, it isn’t good judgement. That’s why we chose to tell the last chapter of the story without sensationalizing it through the use of audio and video clips.
“While it is our preference that digital evidence is not displayed by the media out of respect for the victims, the images, video, and audio are subject to Wisconsin’s Public Records law and we cannot prevent media outlets from showing them,” said DOJ spokesman Johnny Koremenos. “We appreciate your publications choice to not show these graphic visuals.”
Some readers questioned why we didn’t go further in Tuesday’s report. We stand by our decision. There are more important things than page views.
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