Witnesses’ accounts, time restraints led to imbalance in Gowin, Pyle article
It was a few hours after deadline on April 26 when the Daily Egyptian first heard there was an accident in the Route 13 intersection involving Corey Gowin, a John A. Logan student, and Stephen Pyle, a chaplain for Carbondale Memorial Hospital.
When news breaks, we at the Daily Egyptian act as any other news source would. We chase the story. A reporter and two photographers were sent to the scene.
In an attempt to paint an accurate picture, the reporter discussed the accident with the two witnesses who were available at the time. Both witnesses said they were traveling west on 13 when the stoplight turned red and all cars stopped but one.
That night police authorities would not release any information on the case.
The day after the Daily Egyptian’s story ran, authorities said they believed the light was green during the accident and that other witnesses saw that the light was green, too. On the same day, Carbondale police also said no charges had been filed against the driver.
The reporter at the scene had tried to verify information with one of the police officers, but because he said that because she was from “just the Daily Egyptian,” it wasn’t important that she get information.
Reporters sometimes rely on witnesses when officials are unwilling or unavailable to speak with us. This doesn’t happen too often — and when it does, it’s because we’ve exhausted all other options.
The Daily Egyptian also strives to correct errors once we have been made aware of them.
This editorial serves as an apology to Pyle, his family and church community for initially reporting that he ran through a red light, as reported by witnesses available at the time.
The reporter relied on those willing to speak with her. Upon returning to the newsroom, the reporter placed multiple follow-up phone calls to verify the information she received.
As on any deadline story, the editor-in-chief had to make a judgment call about which information to include in the page one story. Both she and the reporter waited until 11 p.m. for officials to return phone calls before sending the story to press.
The online version of the story was fixed the next day, but despite the error being corrected, we realize many remain upset.
We know being student reporters does not justify or excuse the error we may have made. The Daily Egyptian is like any other news source in that we will continue to hold ourselves to the highest standards and hope our readers can depend on the Daily Egyptian as a reliable news source.
Roughly half of the 20,000 papers we print each day are distributed off campus. We serve the surrounding communities, not just the university.
We also hope this error does not overshadow the overwhelming support Pyle and Gowin have received from the community. Gowin was not an SIUC student, yet the Saluki family, those from the John A. Logan community and many others came together for a fundraiser for his funeral and a candlelight memorial.
This has been a tragedy for everyone involved. This also has been a lesson for all of us.