Amidst the speculation bubbling under cover, the Mitchell Daily Republic sees fit to run rank speculation as headline news:
A colleague of Richard Benda’s said he may have been hunting in the Lake Andes area before he was found dead there Tuesday.
...When asked if [Aberdeen economic development coordinator Julie] Johnson knew what Benda was doing Tuesday in Lake Andes, she replied, “It would only be hearsay from me. I understood he went down there to hunt. But that’s only hearsay” [Luke Hagen, "Source: Dead Official Might Have Been Hunting," Mitchell Daily Republic, 2013.10.24].
Sure, we hear about a person getting shot in South Dakota in the fall, and the default assumption is hunting accident. But we don't turn unsubstantiated assumptions into headlines.
And seriously, Luke? Hearsay for your headline? I'm hearing all sorts of say from sources that I could turn into all sorts of headlines starting with "Source: Dead Official Might Have Been...." But I'm not doing it, and most journalists aren't doing it, because it's all speculation, with no verifiable facts behind it.
Speaking of depression, Hagen goes there, and Johnson tells him not to:
From 2010 to 2013, Benda was a loan administrator for the South Dakota Investment Fund and was the loan monitor for the beef plant, which opened in 2012 with plans to employee hundreds of workers. Johnson said she had talked to Benda since the beef plant closed.
“I never got the impression he was depressed about it,” she said. “I think he still was very proud about their work. As always, start-up projects stumble into financial issues along the way. We didn’t talk about feelings about it. We talked about the reality of it and the process” [Hagen, 2013.10.24].
Johnson doesn't know, I don't know, and the Mitchell Daily Republic doesn't know who pulled the trigger or why. None of us know how Benda felt about Northern Beef Packers losing a whole lot of other people's money or about his recent winning streak in Madison. None of us should be popping out headlines pretending we know until we start getting some facts.