This isn’t a critique, in the usual sense. But I absolutely must recognize the amazing work you all did on our final and very special issue remembering Gerald Smith. It’s impossible not to read every word in this issue — an amazing feat for any newspaper.
Some of the wonderful aspects of this coverage are …
… emotion. Gurinder’s photos — especially the lead photo — are heartwrenching. They capture moments of vulnerability and mourning that are impossible to convey in words.
Photo by Gurinder Singh/ Gerald L. Smith's mother Robin Hill accepts her son's bachelor's degree posthumously from College of Business Dean Nancy Merritt at the commencement ceremony Saturday afternoon.
… Michael and Aliya’s moving and detailed accounts of Smith’s friends’ memories and pain. It’s always a sensitive and uncomfortable situation to interview people who are in a great deal of emotional turmoil. But Michael and Aliya handled it with sensitivity and insight. Our writing was respectful, but probing. And the reader comes away with a real sense of Smith’s humor, quirkiness, “geekiness” and kindness. Wonderful job.
… Nick’s follow-up with the Javins family. This story gets at a larger issue of finding support amid tragedy. What an important story to be told. Again, a very respectful yet insightful look at how shared pain can bring new bonds of friendship among people.
… the big-picture investigation details. Robin’s piece on Facebook and the FBI statistics we included really add context to the coverage. They are small details, but they add so much to the reader’s understanding.
… Aliya’s piece on the blogging community. This is my favorite part of the coverage, actually, because it is the most innovative. It’s a story that wouldn’t have been written even five years ago. But conveying the broad reach of someone like Gerald, whose interests and activity stretched into the ether online, really gets across how connected our world has become. Excellent story.
… extras. The timeline, the president’s letter and the blogger’s letter all add wonderful perspectives to the coverage. They add to the reader’s understanding of Gerald’s life and impact.
… planning. Although his name is nowhere in this issue, Ben Corn was essential to the planning and execution of this issue. Along with Michael and the rest of the staff, he spent hours in the newsroom bringing the issue together. The planning pays off for our readers.
… Harold Bosstick’s reporting and editing. His name gets mentioned only once on page 3, but Harold made the call that started the ball rolling on this issue. And then he provided the FBI stats and very valuable editing of the other stories. We are so lucky to have had Harold’s dedication and reporting and editing skills.
In closing, let me say that in spite of the tragic circumstances, you all can take great pride in your work on this story. We honor Gerald and others whose lives end tragically when we cover their lives and deaths with humility, respect and genuine curiosity.
What you have given his family, friends and classmates is a memento of his life — something that they can revisit when they want to remember the impact of this event on our community. Thanks to your reporting, Gerald’s death did not go unnoticed. Thanks to your reporting, his loved ones were able to tell the entire ISU and Terre Haute communities how much Gerald will be missed. They were able to share how much he meant to them.
I’m sorry that we ended the semester on such a grim note. But you can be reassured that you did Gerald’s memory a great service.