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The Vermont Cynic leads coverage of a campus death

November 2, 2013

One of the greatest challenges for a college newspaper staff can be reporting on the death of any member of a campus community. When the deceased is a much-loved university leader, when the death is unexpected and when the cause of death is potentially sensational, the challenge is even greater.

Kathy Cook

Kathy Cook

Kathy Cook, an associate director of residential life with a 16-year history at the University of Vermont, died this week in a house fire at the edge of campus. She was the lone fatality, and authorities say they are still investigating the cause of the fire.

The Vermont Cynic staff worked together to provide complete coverage: objective and sensitive to the traumatic nature of the story. This college news team was the first to post a comprehensive package of story, photos and video, and the first to get the news to the Burlington community through social media, ahead of two local newspapers and TV stations. Other media outlets emailed Editor-in-Chief Mike Eaton throughout the day, asking for help reporting the story.

Earlier this week, the Cynic picked up two national awards for previous work, both in print and online. Midweek, the staff showed why they deserved it. Coverage of a campus death requires a careful mix of thoughtfulness, empathy and—somehow, at the same time—impartiality and a commitment to the facts of the news, even when some of that news is difficult to report. As this team’s adviser, I couldn’t be prouder.

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