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Crawford: Facts can be hard to come by

Posted: August 11, 2015 - 11:10pm  |  Updated: August 11, 2015 - 11:22pm

The most satisfying and the most frustrating aspect of journalism is often the quest to impose some precision on the very messy way we humans communicate with each other.

Most of the time, when we exchange information with friends and family, the process is sloppy and the end result can be something like the old game of “telephone,” where a brief snippet of information can evolve and transform into something entirely different as it gets passed down the line.

We mishear things, we confuse facts, we remember incorrectly, and then we pass those little errors on to others, who do the same thing.

If you don’t believe me, you probably haven’t looked at your Facebook feed today.

The object of journalism at its most basic level is to tease out the facts and to report what is accurate.

Monday, is a good example of this process.

Sometime Monday morning, we heard a rumor that a child had been bitten by a rattlesnake at Greenbrier Middle School.

The facts were few and far between. How did we know it actually happened? Who could confirm it was a rattlesnake? Is the child in a local hospital?

We knew none of these things.

After checking in with some people who should know, schools Superintendent Sandra Carraway was able to confirm that the incident did happen on Friday at a Pop Warner football practice, but because of privacy concerns she could not say much else.

In my book, a child being bitten by a potential deadly venomous snake is worth reporting.

So, I paid a visit to the Pop Warner practice Monday evening at Greenbrier Middle. People were talking about it, as I knew they would be, but the information was conflicting and inaccurate.

Some people said they knew the name of the family. (Nope) Some said the boy’s brother was on the football team. (Maybe) Some said he was in the third grade. (Wrong)

Some were reluctant to say anything at all. And that’s fine. No one is required to tell me anything.

All I really wanted was the facts.

So, after a little persistence and some polite questions, here’s what I know:

An elementary school-aged boy was playing outside a fenced soccer field a Greenbrier Middle, while the Pop Warner practice occurred Friday. A witness, who saw what looked to be a rattlesnake, said the boy yelled he had been bitten and ran to his mother. He was taken to Doctors Hospital, where he was in good condition Monday.

That’s about as precise as I can get on deadline. I hope it will suffice.

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