We wrestled a bit with the idea of covering Drake Bigler's funeral Monday, but it wasn't a very difficult decision to keep our distance from the services. As a newspaper, our goal is to cover the news and deliver it. But there comes a time when we have no other choice but to put people first and just walk away. It's the right thing to do.
From a news standpoint, yes, it was newsworthy, because Drake's death was allegedly caused by a criminal act and because he was the son of a public figure, in this case a Division II head coach. Therefore, the crash that took Drake's life made headlines all over the country. Numerous TV stations from around Minnesota took a number when it came to speaking with Southwest Minnesota State University officials about the crash and Brad Bigler's recovery.
The story was obvious.
But newsworthiness can also be trumped by a sincere respect for a grieving family, a respect that some media outlets lose sight of in the name of "getting the story."
Oftentimes, families will request that media back off when it comes to a loved one being laid to rest; military families sometimes do this. To our knowledge, neither the Biglers, nor SMSU, sent out such a request. In our eyes, they didn't have to.
The Independent figured the best thing we could do was keep our distance, let family and friends mourn the loss of this little boy without seeing a reporter take notes or adjust his or her camera.
We didn't want to be a distraction. The Biglers deserve that much.
Still, it is a topic worthy of discussion. The public might not understand media's need to cover funerals, but it is part of the job, especially when it comes to public figures or when there are extraordinary circumstances surrounding the death, like when a youth is killed at the hands of another. Some media organizations will push that envelop as far as they can before being told to back off; when it comes to a funeral, this isn't one of those organizations.
The Independent takes funeral coverage on a case-by-case basis. We don't cover a lot of them. We covered Sen. Gary Kubly's funeral because Kubly was a long-time area politician who died after battling ALS. He was also still serving at the time of his death. In this case, his death itself was the news, not necessarily what caused it. Same with former Sen. Gary DeCramer who was not only a prominent politician, but because he was a local one, too.
In Drake Bigler's case, the news had already happened, and more news from the incident will come out in the months to come.
But for now, all we will choose to print is, "Rest in peace, Drake."