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Sedona is a small town, and word travels fast. News of a rollover accident comes to our newsroom from text messages or phone calls only minutes after we hear it across the police scanner we use.

Managing Editor Christopher Fox GrahamUnfortunately, rumors and conjecture also travel fast. “News” about a couple’s breakup, a former neighbor’s arrest or workplace drama spreads via word of mouth or social media sites almost as fast as having a herald on a soapbox shouting at passing cars.

The Sedona Red Rock News, like most other newspapers of record, can’t rely on rumor to fill our pages. Stories come from quoted sources, public meetings, official statements and press releases. While off-the-record conversations and anonymous tips may lead us to find a story or confirm a theory, journalistic ethics preclude us from citing an anonymous source in a news story. A theory without confirmation remains unpublished.

Social media, however, as one would expect, have none of these ethics. Anonymity, conjecture, rumor and implication are why they thrive — and why so many people can spend hours replying and posting to others on a forum, Facebook or a comments page.

When tragedy befalls one of our residents, the community understandably wants to know the details.

Several recent deaths have lead many on social media to jump to conclusions about the causes of death and what could have taken these former neighbors from us.

We have reported on the discoveries of bodies and recoveries from the scene by law enforcement and first responders.

We must first wait for local law enforcement to notify next of kin before agencies can confirm their identities to us.

The human body is a complicated machine, and determining a cause of death is not a quick process. In some cases, it can take the Yavapai County or Coconino County medical examiners’ offices days or weeks to determine how a person met his or her end, which is why we and other reputable news outlets wait before publishing whether a person died from natural causes or foul play, by accident or their own hand.

When a newspaper makes an error in a news story, we print a correction. Social media users have no such ethical obligation.

Assuming a person’s cause of death, then broadcasting it across social media is, at a minimum, disrespectful, and at most cruel, especially to their families and friends. As a community, we owe our dead the respect of waiting for the facts — as they cannot defend their reputations nor themselves. That’s up to us.

Christopher Fox Graham

Managing Editor













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