Monday, August 4, 2008

Readers criticize story on hiking

Q: Lance Leage was one of my cousins. Why would you include the information about his 20-year-old court history in the article on his death while hiking? The family couldn’t see how that would have had any bearing whatsoever on the reported circumstances of his death, which was a fall. Should it become relevant, then I can understand it. The family was very hurt by the inclusion of that information.
—Brodie Leage, Orland (near Chico)

Q: I was disappointed in your story about the missing hiker Lance Leage and how it brought up his criminal background. What happened 20 years ago is irrelevant to what happened on the trail. I am more interested in knowing what happened on the trail and why he slipped and fell. The story was in poor taste and hurtful to the family.
—Paula Martin, Paso Robles

Q: As a parent who lost a child 20 years ago, I am sympathetic to the family. I think the inclusion of the past criminal record would make the tragic situation that much more hurtful. As a reader, the story left me with several questions. Here’s a young man, 42 years old, running down a trail in flip flops. What was that about?Who is this mysterious friend from L. A. with no name? And how could a bloody shirt be found separated from the body? Why weren’t these questions pursued? I’m much more interested in this and not his past.
—Pandora Nash-Karner, Los Osos

A: Since we published the article about Lance Leage on Tuesday, we have received about 30 calls and e-mails from the family, their friends and some individuals who don’t know the Leages, all raising the concerns expressed above. It was not our intention to hurt the family. Clearly, however, our report did, and we are deeply sorry for that.
The journalists that day considered whether to include the information or not. In the end, we included it because there were so many unanswered questions surrounding his death and he had an extensive criminal record that spanned the latter half of his life.
We understand why some readers would be upset. Some journalists in our newsroom think we should have held the information for a later story that more fully reported on the police investigation.
Exactly what happened on that trail remains to be known. The results of a toxicology report, which won’t be completed for several weeks, may shed some light, and whatever it shows we will be sure to share.
As for the questions about how the tragic accident occurred, we have asked those questions and will continue to do so. At this point, law-enforcement authorities aren’t releasing any additional information, saying their investigation is ongoing. We will share information with you as we learn it.
-- Sandra Duerr