FROM THE EDITOR: The Daily failed to serve OU community first
A little before 8 p.m. Tuesday, in the middle of designing today’s front page, I received notification that OU student Casey Cooke was drunk when she died June 3, according to the autopsy report.
Within the following hour, we sent a tweet from the OUDaily account linking to the report.
That never should have happened.
In our haste to cover the breaking news, and because I was busy with my normal production duties and failed to review the tweet, we sent out information without carefully thinking through our actions or their repercussions.
If we had taken time to consider the sensitive nature of the story instead of treating it like any other news, we would have recognized that while there is value in reporting the context of Cooke’s death, there was no need to provide the autopsy report, because its facts went beyond what was relevant to the story.
One of our most important roles as journalists is to ensure the public has access to documents kept by the government or government agencies.
Oftentimes we take that duty further by providing links to those documents in an effort to facilitate easy access for our readers.
We had those tenets in mind when we put the autopsy report on OUDaily.com, but we failed to weigh them against another journalistic responsibility: minimizing harm to the community we serve.
You, our readers, voiced your strong opinions that this particular document added no value to the story.
We heard you.
My editors and I gathered in the newsroom conference room today to discuss how to move forward, keeping at the forefront of the conversation the response from our audience.
Ultimately, we decided that, in this case, the value of facilitating public access to a public document did not outweigh the negative effect on the OU community. We took down the report.
In the future, we will continue to promote transparency in government through open meetings and records, as well as to host those records on OUDaily.com. However, in the case of personal records, we will take time to consider the pertinence of the information contained therein, reviewing each story on a case-by-case basis.
We also have established a hierarchical process to ensure breaking news is not put on social media without the approval of the editor in chief or managing editor.
Those safeguards were put in place because of your feedback, which we value and welcome. You reminded us that we are public servants who should consider the wants and needs of the public we serve first.
We failed in that regard last night, and in doing so, we failed each of you.
I apologize on behalf of The Oklahoma Daily and the editorial board for our hasty decision-making. And I, as editor in chief and, more importantly, as a fellow human being, am sorry for the hurt those decisions caused Casey Cooke’s friends and family.
Laney Ellisor is editor in chief of The Daily.