One of the most common questions news staff members are asked about a major news story is, “How did you hear about it?”
On most crime stories, the answer is the police scanner, or a police report.
We learned through unusual means last Sunday that George Tiller had been shot, and I think it’s right to disclose to our readers how that happened.
For more than 10 years, Assistant Metro Editor Marcia Werts and her family have attended Reformation Lutheran Church. She was arriving at church Sunday shortly after the shooting occurred, and her husband and daughter were inside the church. She phoned Deputy Editor Tom Shine to alert him to the developing story. Marcia was understandably shaken by what happened at the church that day, and we did not ask her to take part in news coverage, though she did stay in touch with other Eagle editors through the day. Other media organizations also were arriving at the church about the time Marcia arrived, presumably after hearing of a shooting on the police scanner.
It’s rare that one of our staff members is so closely connected to a developing news story. Many people have asked how The Eagle confirmed the news of George Tiller’s death so quickly that morning, and I want to be open with our readers on the circumstances of how this happened.