Friday, September 07, 2007

Editors of DMN answer questions

Dallas reader wondered why our Aug. 20 coverage of convicted killer Kenneth Foster didn't mention that he was a member of a youth gang. Omitting that information, he thought, made Mr. Foster seem more innocent than he really was.

Assistant Managing Editor Mike Drago says the reporter who wrote the story found trial testimony that indicated Mr. Foster's cohorts may have been members of a gang, but there was no trial testimony that indicated Mr. Foster himself had been a member. Mr. Foster has consistently denied being in a gang. So, in a sense, fairness to Mr. Foster argued against including mention of the gang, if we couldn't explore the question fairly fully. And doing that was going to require some serious space.

Where to spend serious space is the most important question we confront on many stories. In this case, we made a lot of room for the story, and the question of Mr. Foster's motivation and intent was central to the question the story posed for our readers: Should Texas execute him because he was driving the car when someone else shot a robbery victim? (Eventually, Gov. Rick Perry decided not.)

For the sake of completeness, we could have reported the evidence on whether Mr. Foster's comrades were gang members, and his denials of gang membership, and the fact that trial testimony was silent on the question. The debate would have been inconclusive. Vagueness is usually a good reason for omitting things from stories. But in this case it might have mattered to some readers. In retrospect, I wish we had made room for it.


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