Getting all the facts isn’t easy, but it’s my job

We do our best each week to get the news to you and to make sure we have all the facts.

In one story in our newspaper last week, that didn’t happen.

On Saturday, July 13, there was a crash just east of New Prague. I learned of the crash, grabbed my camera and headed to the scene.

As I approached the crash I decided it would be best to park my car in the New Prague Ford parking lot, so it would not get in the way of emergency vehicles.

I walked the rest of the way and got to the scene as firefighters were putting out a fire in a pickup truck in a field. There were police, sheriff’s deputies, fire and ambulance personnel all around. I took several photos and stayed for about half an hour, talking to some people in the area of the car fire. I found out that there was no one seriously hurt, and when a state trooper came up to the area, I identified myself as being with the news media and asked him if he would be writing the report. He said he would, and I got his name and the district he works in (important because there are three districts that border near New Prague).

The following Monday I attempted to contact the media person from the Golden Valley district. He was out of the office, but I was referred to another information officer.

That officer sent me some basic information about the crash. The information that it was a one-car crash and one person was taken to the hospital. I responded to his email by asking about other vehicles, since I had been told it was a three-car crash. He replied that it was just a onevehicle crash.

Well, the paper came out on Wednesday and the next day we got a phone call letting us know that our information was wrong. (Several others followed over the next few days.) I emailed the patrol information officer and explained what happened. I was a little upset, since we rely on the state patrol for the official word in such situations.

They were apologetic, and the information officer explained that he was going off of the preliminary notes from the investigating officer, who had not yet filed the full report and who would not be working again until the weekend. I was assured I would be getting the complete information, which is in a story elsewhere in this week’s newspaper.

Was I wrong to rely on just one source? Yes and no. As a standard practice, we rely on the State Patrol to get the correct information to us in these cases, and only rarely do we put in information from unofficial sources.

However, I should have been more diligent in finding out more information. The other two vehicles were about a quarter-mile down the road from where I was standing. I did not walk over to that area to find out more information. I asked about them and was told by the information officer that they were “just witnesses.”

In my email to the information officer I expressed my frustration at not being able to get complete information, not just this time, but in other instances of crashes investigated by the State Patrol. They said they shared the frustration, that the system is far from perfect. They said they do the best they can with what they had available. Kind of the same excuse I could use for the error in this instance.

However, I can, and should have done better. Had I walked the extra quarter-mile to where the other cars were, I would have known for sure that it was a three-car crash and could have pushed for more information. I would have known there was another person taken to the hospital, and I would have been in a better position to get the facts for our readers.

And as I mentioned in the first paragraph of this column, that is what our goal is each week.