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Lubbers column: Police shooting headline needed more careful attention

Of the thousands of words published in last Wednesday's News Tribune, there are a handful that we regret printing.

The headline atop the front page — "Virginia police kill 1" — elicited a strong reaction from many readers in the Iron Range and law enforcement communities.

And for good reason.

We simply were not as careful with how we worded that headline as we needed to be.

We never intended to say anything other than the facts as we knew them at press time, late Tuesday night. The facts are there, but the words we chose to convey those facts upset many of our readers, as they interpreted that headline to have a derogatory attitude toward the Virginia police department.

We did change the headline on our website very early on Wednesday morning, but, of course, that was too late to tweak the print edition.

On behalf of the News Tribune, I apologize for the headline containing a poor choice of words.

We highly value and respect the role of law enforcement personnel in our communities. They perform extremely difficult, stressful work and their duties often dictate that they put themselves in harm's way. In our newsroom alone, we count family members and friends among the ranks of local law enforcement.

Aside from those personal relationships, we have professional relationships with the various police and fire departments and sheriff's offices in the Northland. Even as the News Tribune has a duty to report many of the incidents they are involved with, we know that their first responsibility is to protect members of the community and themselves.

DNT reporters and editors spend a lot of time debating word choices, meanings, standards, ethics and so on, especially when it comes to covering crime and courts. The News Tribune has an in-house stylebook to help guide the more complicated coverage decisions that we have to make. And many potential errors or poor decisions never see the light of day thanks to that due diligence.

So that makes us regret even more not taking a few extra moments, and a step back from the heat of deadline, to examine that headline more closely before it went to press.

We've had some constructive discussions about that headline in the past few days in the newsroom — and many of you have reached out to me as well — so please know that we'll double our efforts to carefully craft headlines in the future.

If anyone wishes to discuss this more, please contact me at one of the options listed below.

Contact News Tribune Executive Editor Rick Lubbers at (218) 723-5301 or