A family-owned daily newspaper serving Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming since 1949

Allegation vs. verification

Nov 19, 2014 - By Steven R. Peck

In the case of a bizarre death, we must take care to recognize the difference

Rarely has our newspaper published a headline to equal the one above Tuesday's lead story: "Investigators say pack of dogs killed woman."

This is a bizarre and horrifying story, certain to generate questions and conversation.

In this day and age, that's often where trouble starts.

We had a reporter on the scene of the incident last week. We monitored police radio traffic that day. We have interviewed the investigating authorities. We are awaiting official determinations. Our newspaper has taken care to publish only what we have heard and seen firsthand, and only what we have been told by people we can trust.

So far, that doesn't amount to a lot, particularly when weighed against the unmitigated flood of rumor, gossip, hearsay, wild speculation and cruelty circulated via that great purveyor of all things unsubstantiated, the Internet.

Perhaps some of what is being distributed online at the speed of light concerning the terrible death of Deanne Coando is true, or partly true, but it is certain that much of it is not. That fact, of course, keeps virtually no one from saying it, reading it, enhancing it, exaggerating it, contriving it, inventing it, twisting it, misunderstanding it, and forwarding it on to the next lucky audience member.

We are hopeful that in this explosive climate of "information," to use a term that applies only marginally, that there might still be a role for responsible questions, informed answers, authenticated facts, verifiable statements, and reasonable conclusions.

Our newspaper is not perfect in any of those regards, but we do come to work each day intending to deal in the things listed in the previous sentence -- and, when we don't, to make it absolutely clear under the big banner on page four that reads "Opinion."

In the particular case of Deanne Coando, determined to have been attacked and injured by dogs to the extent that those injuries, combined with last week's bitterly and unexpectedly cold weather, took her life, there are many questions. For reasons of public safety, public service and, undeniably, public curiosity, answers -- real ones -- must be found to as many of those questions as possible.

As the investigation -- and by that we mean the actual inquiry based on evidence, training and authentication -- continues, we urge everyone to try their hardest to discern the difference between what is alleged and what is verified. These days that ability is speeding in the wrong direction.


Jan. 8: Autopsy says woman died from dog attack

Nov. 18: Investigators say pack of dogs killed woman

Nov. 13: Animal attack may have killed woman south of Riverton

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