Clearwater came together to mourn on Saturday.
Two bright lights that everyone had expected would help illuminate the community’s future, Skye and Courtney Buck, had suddenly been lost.
To make the tragedy even worse, Courtney had been pregnant with the young couple’s first child, a baby boy.
I didn’t get a chance to know Courtney that well, but I knew Skye since he was a little boy.
For several years (until I injured my foot by trying to walk too far) I attended Brent and Tracy’s karate class. Skye was there and, even at that young age, impressed me with his intelligence and positive mental attitude. “That kid is going to go far,” I said to myself.
That positive impression persisted as I watched him grow up through elementary and secondary school, and then university. Skye seemed to excel at whatever he did, but there was no conceit about him.
Skye started going out with Courtney when they were at Clearwater secondary. She had the movie star good looks to match his but, as with Skye, you only had to speak with her a few times to realize her beauty was more than skin deep, and why Skye was so strongly bonded to her.
They were both down-to-earth, straightforward and well-rounded people – the kind that Clearwater so often seems to produce.
One Clearwater resident complimented me on Wednesday for sparing the families by not posting the story to our website right away. Actually, that was more accident than design. I suppose the real truth was I didn’t really want to write the story. I kept putting it off, waiting for confirmation or more details. Then it got so late that I figured I might as well postpone it until Thursday when the paper came out (but it didn’t due to problems at our printing plant in Vernon, but that’s another story).
Since the Times went to a paid subscription on our website, daily traffic has dropped off to about 100 unique visitors per day (although it has been coming back). On Dec. 10, the day after Skye and Courtney’s accident, there were 1,118 unique visitors to the site, and 633 the day after that.
Those people were looking for news from the local newspaper, and they didn’t get it.
The newspaper needs to find a balance between the families’ right to grieve and the need of the general public for information. That balance is often hard to find.
Sudden deaths are a minefield for a newspaper, particularly in a small town.
In past years we’ve had family members complain because we put the death of a loved one on page one. And we’ve had family members complain because we didn’t.
People’s emotions are raw and sometimes some of them are looking for someone to blame – and sometimes they blame the messenger.
The family barred all media from last Saturday’s memorial, except for your editor. They even asked me to go around before the ceremony and photograph the tables and displays set up for the event (which led at least one local resident to ask what I was doing).
There can be no doubt that Skye and Courtney would have made positive contributions to this community. With them gone, the rest of us will have to try just that much harder.
That includes the newspaper. Any suggestions on how the Times could improve its coverage of events such as this would be greatly appreciated.