Editorial: In case of George Brinkman, responsibility as citizens eclipsed that of a journalist

DOWNTOWN CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - As members of the media, covering tragedy is part of the job. However, this past weekend at Cleveland 19, things grew more complicated.

During coverage of last weekend's murder of three women in North Royalton, reporter Lacey Crisp was using social media to reach out to those close to the victims. She wanted her story to be about who the women were, not just about how they died.

One of those people she contacted was George Brinkman.

Read more: Who is George Brinkman?

Lacey tried to set up an interview, but Brinkman didn't show up. On Monday night, Brinkman sent Lacey a Facebook message asking her for help. He said he was at a house in Brunswick surrounded by police. As it turns out, he was wanted as a suspect in the North Royalton murders, as well as the murders of two others in Stark County.

Once Lacey realized this, Cleveland 19 had to make an ethical decision as to our involvement in this story. News Director Fred D'Ambrosi and the team quickly decided to contact Brunswick police.

The police asked Lacey to keep talking to Brinkman, and to encourage him to come out of the house. Lacey and Brinkman messaged one another until 3 a.m. Eventually, though, Brinkman realized Lacey was in contact with the police, who asked her to cut off communication, and eventually police took him into custody.

It's not easy for people used to impartially covering the news to become part of the news, but at the time this decision was made, it wasn't clear if Mr. Brinkman was alone in the house or if others were potentially in danger. To us, that meant our reporter needed to work with the police in an effort to keep everyone safe.

We have a job to be journalists, but that job is sometimes eclipsed by our responsibility to be good citizens.

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