Sometimes the news breaks your heart.

The words telling the story are bad enough. A picture is even worse.

Such was the case yesterday in the East Oregonian with a story and pictures about five dying in a horrific auto accident.

The story was raw, and tragic. Five people killed in a head-on, two-vehicle crash that engulfed both vehicles in fire.

Tribal police and firefighters responded quickly, extinguished the flames and worked like the professionals they are to take care of survivors.

The EO responded too. Reporter Phil Wright and photographer E. J. Harris were quickly on the scene to gather the facts.

The job of journalism is to tell our communities and readers what has taken place. Most times, thankfully, it is good news.

But too often it is the worst kind, such as this accident.

Still, people want to know. The rumors are worse than the facts, in most cases.

Our phone lines light up with questions. Eastoregonian.com gets hundreds of hits.

Our job is to give people the answers as to what happened in words and, often, in pictures.

This task must be performed quickly and, as best we can with stories like the car accident, as sensitively as possible.

Photography is the hardest in such situations.

When those injured are neighbors and friends, people justly expect us to use good judgement.

The photographerÂ’s assignment is to show what has happened, but with some measure of reserve and respect for those innocently involved in the tragedy.

Harris worked hard, and professionally to make that happen with the accident.

He too has experienced the pain of losing a loved one and the sadness of seeing too many hurt in accidents.

A number of pictures taken were rejected as too harsh. Many more were not shot at all.

One chosen was of a survivor being moved to medical care.

By journalistic standards, it told the story, including cars burning in the background. And it avoided showing those who had been killed.

Still, we do understand why many readers and those close to the accident victims feel the EO went too far in publishing the picture.

The image was simply too powerful, raw and insensitive to the privacy of those involved, a number of callers told us.

We certainly understand and accept that criticism.

We offer our apologies to the families and to those readers who found the accident photograph simply too much.

The EO must and will continue to report on community disasters. There have been way too many killed on our highways in Umatilla County this past week or two.

Readers need to know the details. We can hope the facts will help, in some small way, to prevent future accidents.

But we will do our best to tell the stories in pictures and words that are as thoughtful and as sensitive as possible.

— Tom Brown

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