Being first is too often a news reporter’s top priority.

Even in smaller news markets where there is little or no competition to break a story, a reporter can feel compelled on his own or be pressured by his superiors to “scoop” his journalism rivals, whether real or imagined.

Newspapers have deadlines. Due to staff shortages and rising production costs, those deadlines have grown tighter and tighter over the years, resulting in more and more stories being released without all the facts or with erroneous information.

Of course, there are fluid stories that evolve every hour and can’t be completely told in one edition. The recent Uvalde tragedy is a perfect example.

But all too often, for the sake of filling a news hole and calling it a day, newspapers publish stories that aren’t time sensitive without allowing the time necessary to accumulate all the facts and information.

On June 9, the headline of the top online story on a neighboring newspaper’s website read “Arrested coach: What we know and don’t know.”

With the story was the booking mugshot of the coach, clad in his orange jail T-shirt. The image itself appears damning.

The coach had been arrested May 27 on a misdemeanor harassment charge. The headline for the story admits that the newspaper did not have all the facts. Yet it decided to publish the story regardless.

The Advance-Guard became aware of the coach’s arrest days after it had occurred and immediately filed a public information request with the Goliad County Sheriff’s Office for information on the arrest.

The GCSO cooperated with the Advance-Guard’s request. After investigating the circumstances of the case and receiving information and details that became available, it was very apparent to Coastal Bend Publishing and the Advance-Guard that a story was not warranted at that time.

The coach, who resigned shortly after his arrest, already had applied for jobs at other school districts before the “What we don’t know” story was published.

Now a simple Google search will reveal a story, one without all the facts, that will potentially ruin his career and tarnish his reputation for the rest of his life.

I hope all the facts behind the coach’s arrest are revealed one day. Unfortunately for him, for the sake of being first, the damage is already done.

•cslavik@mysoutex.com•

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