This blog was published in the Friday, April 30, 2021 edition of the Banner Graphic.
For the first time that I can recall in my almost-three years here at the Banner, I was accused of fear-mongering and of causing "unnecessary worry" with a story I wrote.
Last Tuesday morning, local first responders were sent out to Buzzi Unicem USA, a concrete operation not far outside Greencastle's southwest limit, for what was initially reported as a fall. I did not think much of it — until I saw on Paul's Scanner that not only had the Greencastle Fire Department's ladder truck been dispatched along with Putnam County EMS, but a StatFlight helicopter had also been called to the scene.
I then scrambled over to Buzzi's general entrance. I got a photo of the ladder truck, the helicopter and an EMS ambulance before two Buzzi workers basically told me I was trespassing. I made my way back and put up the initial story without any real details.
It turned out that a worker suffered serious burns after being suspended above a kiln.
More or less playing a Monday-morning quarterback, one commenter wrote that the Banner Graphic was being irresponsible with this initial story. He suggested that we only needed to print, "a concise, informative article with all pertinent information."
Articles will not poof out of thin air in these kinds of situations. I tried to do my due diligence and spoke later on with GFD Capt. Brian Poole; and I much appreciate his cooperation despite him not being guaranteed on what led to the worker's fall either.
Perhaps the commenter saw the incident as bad PR for the quarry's business, and that what happened was a "non-news news story" as such. Neither of those elements are part of my M.O. as a local journalist. I don't go out of my way to make people look bad.
The only entity which would have those details is Buzzi. Private businesses can just as well tell me as a reporter to shove it. On the other hand, sharing as much information as possible means goodwill toward us as the local newspaper and the community at large. As reporters, we need to have transparency from everyone who we interact with.
Plant Manager Tim Menke, however, did get back with me and say that Buzzi would provide a statement. Though I still have yet to receive one, he at least said something.
People always want to know what is going on; and they will want to know it all before they themselves could expect those specific details to be made available. I am still neither omniscient nor omnipresent. This is the reality, and it is frustrating at times.
I think the fear-mongering is less about my reporting and more about the rumor mills. They churn in the Chatter threads on Facebook and within groups of people who "ask questions." Patience is a virtue in the newsroom. It takes time to talk with sources and develop that concise, informative narrative. Gossip undermines what we put into this.
Unfortunately, the rumors can and do involve some people wanting to reveal victims' identities. Victims should not be revealed anywhere online until law enforcement says it is okay. We will not chase ambulances this way. If anything, I only chase firetrucks.
The same goes for my reporting on what happened at Buzzi. That initial article was part of the process. It isn't instantaneous, and it certainly doesn't all happen in a void.