There is plenty of tragic news to go around, and it takes its toll on all of us. (Black Press file photos)

There is plenty of tragic news to go around, and it takes its toll on all of us. (Black Press file photos)


SIMPSON: Tragic news is tough on families, readers, journalists and first responders alike

It’s hard enough to write about some of these stories, so hats off to those who deal with tragedy daily

Reading the Now-Leader, whether in print or online, can stir some strong emotions.

There’s anger. “Huge increases in property taxes gobsmack Surrey business owners,” June 7.

And frustration. “Politicians, Indigenous leaders say burning churches not the way to get justice,” July 1.

And disgust. “Police in Abbotsford investigate possible child-luring incident involving 2 men,” July 6.

But there’s also hope. “B.C. sees only 20 new COVID-19 cases as decline continues,” July 5.

There’s wonder. “Rare ‘rock tree’ and giant stump are oddities on city’s heritage list,” July 5.

And even pride. “4,500 bottles of water donated for Surrey’s homeless,” June 30.

All of these very different stories that elicit very different feelings can make putting our paper together a tricky task.

Recognizing the fact that most readers don’t want to open their paper just to be depressed, we aim for a healthy balance. After all, while there always seems to be bad news to share with our readers, there is just as much good news coming from our communities.

And we are more than happy to tell those stories.

In an effort to highlight and showcase more of the positive stories that make our readers feel proud of their city, we decided several years ago to revamp our newspaper. We changed our section names and shuffled them around, to ensure more positive community stories appear up front, rather than the usual fires, crashes, crimes and shootings.

That said, sometimes we do decide to use our front page for some of these tragic stories, like in this week’s issue, which is out tomorrow. And to make matters more challenging, we also have to consider our newspaper carriers, many of whom are young.

Indeed, putting together a newspaper can be a challenge. To do it right takes experience and talent. Fortunately, with the award-winning team we have in our newsroom, I believe we get it right almost all of the time. And it is fulfilling when we do.

Some days are easier than others. Just as you, our readers, don’t want to be bombarded with bad news all the time, we as journalists don’t enjoy constantly sharing it.

Tuesday was a good example.

We started our day by digging up the details of what Surrey RCMP called a “heartbreaking” tragedy. You can read it by clicking here and it will be on this week’s front page, so I don’t need to relate all of the tragic details.

Soon after that story was posted, our website featured a story from Shuswap Lake, one that made me feel sick after I read it.

As Black Press Media’s Lachlan Labere reported, Sicamous RCMP and the BC SPCA are investigating after a dog was found dead and tied to an anchor in Shuswap Lake. A “large breed” of dog was found near the shore and tied to an anchoring device that prevented the animal from reaching the shore or touching the bottom. Another line tied to the dog extended to the shore where it was tied to a pole.

When we share a string of these kinds of tragic stories, I think of our first responders and how difficult it must be for them. It’s hard enough for us as journalists and you as readers, and we aren’t even there. We don’t see or hear the half of it.

No to mention people who deal with tragedy every day, like emergency room staff, funeral workers, social workers, counsellors, victim services volunteers, 911 operators and so on.

That’s why I appreciated the comments from Surrey RCMP Sergeant Elenore Sturko, in a release about Monday night’s tragedy in Johnston Heights.

“This is a heart-breaking incident, and many people in the community, including first responders, will feel the impact of this tragedy. We express our condolences to the families involved, and encourage anyone who is struggling with this news to reach out for support from their healthcare provider.”

Great advice, El.

Beau Simpson is editor of the Now-Leader. Email him at

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