Newspapers work hard to beat the competition with breaking news. But sometimes there is something more important than being first. It's being responsible.
Last week, The Gainesville Sun, in northern Florida, could have scooped papers across the country and throughout the world, because the paper had exclusive access to the before and the after of the burning of a Quran in a small Gainesville church--an ignorant act which provoked the violence that killed 12 innocent people half a world away in Afghanistan.
The pastor of the church told the Sun in advance of his plans to burn the Quran, and he provided a written statement to that effect. The Gainesville Sun did not run the story.
Sun management carefully considered the ramifications of reporting on this event, before saying no. As a result of that decision, relatively few people were aware of the burning until the tragedy in Afghanistan was tied to the burning of the Quran, and the story went viral.
Today the Gainesville Sun printed an explanation of the newspaper's actions, or lack thereof. It was thought, by the paper's powers that be, that publicizing the burning could bring about retaliation from Muslim extremists. Sadly, they were correct.
The Gainesville Sun made the right decision, and in doing so, set an example of how best to use the power of the press--judiciously.