AP NEWS

Reporting deaths

November 17, 2018

On Wednesday, Nov. 14, The Columbus Telegram published a story that shared the strange circumstances of the unexpected death of Colfax County Commissioner Jeffrey Bauman.

In the days that have followed, we’ve heard from some in the community who have their opinions on the article. There are people who are mad we told the story of Bauman’s death, there are people who are upset we mentioned the charges he was facing and there are people who applauded our diligent efforts to report the story accurately.

But above all, there are many people who are sad for the loss of Bauman – who meant a whole lot to many people. He was not just a commissioner; he was a son, a relative, a friend, a neighbor, a community member.

This was not the kind of story we ever enjoy reporting, however, we have a commitment to our community to keep it informed about things that are happening here.

When our phones started ringing Tuesday morning with people leaving tips about a body being found in Colfax County and law enforcement on the scene, we knew our community wanted and deserved to know what happened.

So we went to work that morning to track down accurate information. By noon, we had confirmed who had died, foul play wasn’t involved and there was an investigation underway. As the day progressed, we uncovered Mr. Bauman was facing eight misdemeanor offenses from his alleged involvement with pushing forward two Colfax County roads projects without navigating through the proper legal channels, according to court records.

At this point, as unfortunate as it was, we knew as a watchdog of the community we were obligated to report the facts, and so we did.

A public official was found deceased and he was facing what is considered criminal charges. Some took offense to the words “criminal charges,” but a misdemeanor is a criminal offense. They are less serious than a felony and more serious than an infraction. Misdemeanors are generally punishable by a fine and incarceration in a local county jail.

We took painstaking care to ensure what we gathered was accurate and going as far as to call several people after hours to track down and confirm facts.

A conversation then ensued among Telegram editors about what was written. Although we knew what we had was accurate, it was important to be fair. Whether or not we agreed with the offenses levied against Mr. Bauman was irrelevant.

We believed Mr. Bauman deserved his point of view to be shared. So we took comments he made to one of our reporters for our sister paper, the Schuyler Sun, about the projects in question. It may not have changed readers’ minds as to whether they agreed or disagreed with his actions, but it certainly shed light on his thinking.

After several more reads, we published the story online and in the next morning’s print edition.

We, like many others, are sorry for the loss of Mr. Bauman. By many accounts we’ve heard since Wednesday, it sounds like he was a good man, and we hope to include some of those views in a follow-up article about who he was.

We love being able to share all of the wonderful positive stories about our communities featured in our pages. And while some may not like topics deemed more negative, we must also report them.

We care about our community and the people who shape it. As our community turns from the shock and sorrow surrounding this tragedy, we hope that with time we can put together a story that provides insight into Jeff Bauman the man.

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