This time, however, it was much more complicated and tragic.
Something about 8 am, our ACE noticed a police report that said that there had been a death investigation at a certain address which turned out to be an address of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity house. I made some calls, but neither police spokesperson nor medical examiner’s office couldn’t say much beyond the fact that there had been a death at this frat house, and that a victim was a 19-year old male.
At the same time, one of other students on GA shift (I’m not sure it would be appropriate to disclose her name here) knew some people at Alpha Gamma Rho. She was obviously worried, and she called them — more as a friend than as a journalist. From what they told her it appeared that the death of this student was caused by a medical condition he had for a long time. Of course, they didn’t say it on the record and they didn’t have any proof of that.
So we had an issue. We had a news item that was definitely newsworthy, but we could run only with a fact that a student died at a frat house. And that fact could potentially be a huge source of speculation — everybody knows that frat houses have a certain reputation. And these speculations, from what we knew, would be completely untrue. But at that point we didn’t have any evidence to disprove them.
Liz Brixey, our GA shift editor, initially went with the latter. And I agreed with her at that point. It seemed obvious that we shouldn’t create a source of speculation if we knew that it wasn’t the case for it. And we simply didn’t have enough information for a proper story.
But several minutes later the editor-in-chief of the Missourian Tom Warhover came in — and overruled the decision. We put up a special announcement that informed our readers that a student had been found dead at a frat house, and that we would update the story as soon as we got new information.
To be honest, I’m still not sure who was right in this situation. In a sense, everybody — and no one: there were too many implications that surrounded both of decisions. Anyway, it was a good lesson — at least it gave me a lot to think about.
Fortunately, we were soon able to get some quotes from the police and the medical examiner’s offices that confirmed that Cale Boedeker most likely died because of a medical condition he had (he had diabetes). And I’m really grateful to Seth Klamann, who, honestly speaking, did most of the work. But at least I was able to get some information from the police and to reach out to some of Cale’s friends — who I couldn’t thank enough for talking to a reporter in such grave circumstances.
Well, what’s left to say here. Let’s hope that on my next GA shift I won’t be dealing with death again.