The Sidney Herald received some criticism concerning the story of the deceased male who was found in East Fairview in late July. A person who holds a community leadership role was upset the paper didn’t provide a name in the article and said they were receiving phone calls about the topic. What struck me as odd was this person was upset at the newspaper for reporting… news.
If a dead body is found under suspicious circumstances in this area, it is absolutely the responsibility of the newspaper to report on that. While the community leader was frustrated by the phone calls received, they likely pale in comparison to the number of phone calls, texts, emails and Facebook messages the paper and I received on the topic for several days. People expected us to give them answers — and I did so to the best of my ability.
Of course the name was not printed in our publication, as law enforcement did not release the name of the individual. It’s not uncommon for facts to be limited in a case so early on in the investigation. Anyone could go on social media and find out who it was in a manner of minutes, but Facebook mumblings are not what legitimate news sources report on. Until law enforcement gives me the name of the individual, it’s not my place to print his name. That would be an overstep of my position and disrespectful to the victim’s family and to investigating law enforcement.
I think the real issue is people can feel uncomfortable when crimes happen on the local level. We all love our community; we feel protective of it. We want people to think of Sidney as a place with positive offerings bursting at the seams. And I think Sidney does have those things, but what is also happening in eastern Montana is a drug epidemic that people don’t really want to talk about.
We’ve seen it over and over again just this summer with violence related to known drug users or dealers — young people unable to grasp the gravity of their choices and actions. I’ve read long Facebook posts from community leaders in Miles City talking about the return of methamphetamine and the grip it has on this area. They are saying it’s as bad as it was in the ‘90s. This is a real problem that is not going to go away by promoting positive news stories over crime stories.
And the truth is, we write both. Whether it’s a murder case or a food drive, the Sidney Herald is there. Just since I’ve been editor, we’ve featured stories on a local social media influencer, Communities in Action groups and what each one does, DUI Task Force, Sidney Chamber of Commerce, city councils, county commission, economic development and community impact stories like a series about the flooding this spring and multiple MDU stories that littered the front page. We aren’t here for one beat over another.
We can’t wrap everything up in a pretty bow for people. There are things that happen in Sidney we all wish never did, but sweeping stuff under the rug isn’t going to help anyone. Instead, let’s work on more community resources for young people, better mental health outreach, safe places for people to ask for help and a more empathetic population. The Sidney Herald will gladly be there to cover those stories too.