To understand this story, you should first know that Twitter is an online service that lets users post small comments (140 characters max) for their “subscribers” to read.

A Final Embrace Twitter (which I don’t have) might update you on events at the NFDA Convention this October, or the progress of my book.

Conceived as a way for friends to keep track of each other’s events and plans, the service has also been used by various news to give minute-by-minute accounts of breaking news stories and other newsworthy events.

Twitter feeds are subscribable, which means you can choose a bunch of Twitter users to follow and receive their Tweets (individual Twitter posts) on your cellphone, computer or other device.

Okay, you now have the background you’ll need to understand THE STORY:

A toddler, killed by a vehicle driven by an illegal immigrant, was laid to rest in Aurora, Colorado and the events, both the collision and the funeral, were covered by the Rocky Mountain Times.

Some critics, however, have objected to the RMN’s use of Twitter to give up-to-the-minute reports of the funeral and the procession.

Here’s a sample of the Tweets they posted:

RMN_Berny: procession begins
Wednesday, Sep. 10, 11:01 a.m.

RMN_Berny: people gathering at graveside
Wednesday, Sep. 10, 11:14 a.m.

RMN_Berny: coffin lowered into ground
Wednesday, Sep. 10, 11:18 a.m.

RMN_Berny: rabbi zucker praying
Wednesday, Sep. 10, 11:18 a.m.

RMN_Berny: rabbi recites the main hebrew prayer of death
Wednesday, Sep. 10, 11:20 a.m.

RMN_Berny: earth being placed on coffin.
Wednesday, Sep. 10, 11:22 a.m.

RMN_Berny: rabbi chanting final prayer in hebrew
Wednesday, Sep. 10, 11:27 a.m.

RMN_Berny: rabbi calls end to ceremony
Wednesday, Sep. 10, 11:28 a.m.

Some have called this objectionable, presumably because the reporter’s tweets, restricted in length by the platform being used, are short and unemotional.

In fact, many of the reports about the use of Twitter in this instance show contempt for the Rocky Mountain News and call for people to be fired over this.

Fired for reporting the facts of a story?  Really?

I’ve got two problems with this entire story and neither of them have been addressed by the stories I can find on the Internet.

1.  Reporters are not commentators.  Those who argue that this reporting was invasive or that the reporter should have provided commentary (opinion) rather than straight facts is missing the point of reporting.  Too often, our news sources think we’re too busy, stupid or both to figure out what a story means, so they decide to provide it for us.  But by becoming commentators, reporters lose their objectivity and begin to craft the story to fit their preconceived notions of how we should see the news.

2.  Aren’t these the same people who watched a white Bronco drive down the freeway?  I watched that slow-speed chase when O.J. Simpson tried to flee the country after the murder of his ex-wife and Ron Goldman.  Doesn’t it seem a bit hypocritical to give 45 minutes of play-by-play on a boring joyride (“Did he just swerve?  I think Al Cowlings, the driver of the White Bronco, just attempted to change lanes!”) and then critize a reporter for sharing accurate, minute-by-minute facts about a funeral?

Now, I can understand outrage over the perceived insensitivity of the Rocky Mountain News and, frankly, I’m impressed that people are still careful about how they discuss death and how we grieve as a community.  It makes me think that maybe the funeral is not really “dying” and that, no matter how our own industry changes, people will still feel the need to gather, share memories and commemorate the dead.

Unfortunately, the journalistic hypocrites have not voiced objections to stories like Little victim of ice cream store tragedy tucked in one last time and others that not only describe the funeral in florid details, but contain video of the event as well.

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