This is a letter from the editor about our decision to publish a story today on the role of alcohol in the fatal Lansing crash that killed three young men.

We recognize that some readers may disagree with our decision to publish a story today about the role of alcohol in the fatal crash that killed three people in Lansing.

Questions about our choice are not unreasonable. It is fair for readers to ask why The Voice would risk reviving painful memories about an incident that took several young men from the community far too soon.

However, in the end, we concluded that the public would best be served by fully disclosing the backstory about the horrific incident.

We came to this decision for one overriding reason: Cautionary tales about drunk driving — and media coverage of them — are proven to be effective deterrents of future behavior.

It’s important to inform drivers, young and old, about the consequences of drunk driving. If the article has even a chance of preventing one more young person from getting behind the wheel while intoxicated, then it will have been worth printing.

To be clear: We do not fault the sheriff’s office for its decision to withhold this information. Law enforcement is not obliged to reveal every detail of even fatal crashes, and we defend Sheriff Ken Lansing’s right to follow what he thought was the most prudent course of action.

In this case, however, we disagree that alcohol’s role in the crash is best kept private. Drunk driving has declined in the last 30 years, but far too many young people are still killed because of it every year. It needs to be highlighted and shown as the deadly menace that it is.

The decision is not an easy one, but publishing the story is clearly in the public interest, says Roy Peter Clark, senior scholar at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, which teaches journalism ethics, standards and practices.

“When there’s a terrible accident that involves the loss of three promising young people it’s a terrible tragedy for a community and the families,” Clark says. “And because of that it’s important to know exactly how and why these things happen so that we can continue to inform ourselves as a community about the decisions and actions that are a threat to everyone.”

We know that this topic is deeply upsetting and that you may be unconvinced by this statement. If you’d like to have an alternative or dissenting viewpoint printed, please contact us at jstein@ithacavoice.com.

— Jeff Stein 

Editor | Ithaca Voice


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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.