Not only did a recent Galesburg Register-Mail crime report promote unfounded claims surrounding the incident that left 22-year-old post-baccalaureate Zach Paluch in a coma after being found laying by the railroad tracks — it reinforced Galesburg’s general misconceptions about Knox students.
In the piece, which appeared in the Oct. 2 issue of the Register-Mail, it was noted that Paluch “may have a history of drug use” based on vague statements from Police Chief David Christensen.
“We just don’t know yet,” he was quoted.
Granted, the story has since been replaced on galesburg.com with a more benign version that clearly explains this issue as part of the GPD investigation into the incident and more prominently features the phrase “no signs of criminal activity or wrongdoing.”
But it’s still irresponsible journalism.
How can readers be informed by an article that jumps the gun on a toxicology report, which would indicate whether Zach had been under the influence of drugs that night?
This piece informed no one.
It compounded Galesburg’s idea that when something bad happens to a Knox student, it’s that student’s fault.
The Register-Mail staff is not entirely to blame for this report. They are subject to the same financial pressures as any small newsroom, as shrinking budgets make it harder to spend time on careful reporting of local issues.
But we reject any reporting that encourages a blanket portrayal of Knox students as irresponsible junkies.
We will not claim that Zach was not intoxicated, but speculation regarding his possible intoxication is not news. To pass it off as such does Zach, Knox College and our relationship with the Galesburg community a disservice.
The Register-Mail should have waited for an official report from GPD. No one really knows what happened to Zach that night. But when speculation is passed off as news, the reader can be misled.
The Register-Mail’s readers have been led to believe a baseless report. As Galesburg’s primary news source, The Register-Mail has a responsibility to inform; this article was a step in the wrong direction.