Sadly, some confusion

There are many good things about social media.

It offers a good way to keep up with acquaintances, for example. It provides a pretty good platform for municipalities to use to reach residents quickly with information concerning things like utility disruptions as well. Shops and stores use it as a way to help build traffic to their locations.

There can be some drawbacks, though, as we were reminded on Aug. 27.

Americans were caught up in watching our withdrawal from Afghanistan, an operation that was chaotic, at best, and coming to grips with the fact that 13 servicemen and women had been killed the day before in a suicide bombing at the Kabul airport.

News of that fatal attack put every newsrooom around the country on alert, as editors and writers waited for the names and hometowns of those who had lost their lives to be released. It’s especially true in an area like ours, which tends to have greater representation in the armed services than other parts of the country.

There’s the knowledge that if one of those who lost her or his life was from our region, there would be a story that would have to be told. And it’s never an easy job to have to do. There remains a tinge of sadness in her voice every time Marian Houser, the longtime city and community editor at the Herald-Star, remembers having to talk with the family members of servicemen who had grown up in our area and who had been killed while fighting in Vietnam.

No one on the list of names of those who died in Kabul was from our region, but one, Navy Corpsman Maxton W. Soviak, was a native of Ohio. His hometown was listed as Berlin Heights, which is just south of Sandusky, along the state’s North Coast, The Associated Press reported. While in high school, he played football and tennis, participated in track and field and was in the band, according to the Sandusky Register. After he graduated from Edison High School, he earned a two-year certificate in electrical technology from the EHOVE Career Center, which serves students from Erie, Huron and Ottawa counties.

Wait … he graduated from Edison High School?

Once that news was released, the newsroom began to receive calls and e-mails, and staff members received texts asking what we knew about the Edison High School graduate who had lost his life in Afghanistan. The texts and calls continued well into the evening. Social media accounts from across our area were filled with reports that an area man, an Edison graduate, had been killed.

And all of it was true — except there are two Edison High Schools in Ohio.

Most residents of our area are familiar with the Edison High School in Richmond. But far fewer, apparently, are familiar with the Edison High School in Milan, which sits between Sandusky and Norwalk. To make the matter even more confusing — both schools are in an Edison Local School District.

It didn’t take long to determine the corpsman was not from our area. First, his last name, Soviak, is not a common name in our area. Second, his hometown, Berlin Heights, is not in our area. Third, no one in any official capacity to speak for the Navy or his family, or any local funeral home, had contacted the local media.

We join all Americans in mourning for Maxton Soviak — and the others who lost their lives in that blast on Aug. 26: Marine Lance Cpl. David Espinoza, 20, of Rio Bravo, Texas; Marine Sgt. Nicole Gee, 23, of Roseville, Calif.; Marine Staff Sgt. Darin Taylor Hoover, 31, of Utah; Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss, 23, of Corryton, Tenn.; Marine Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Indio, Calif.; Marine Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, 20, Jackson, Wyo.; Marine Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, 20, of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.; Marine Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, 20, of Norco, Calif.; Marine Cpl. Daegan William-Tyeler Page, 23, of Omaha, Neb.; Marine Sgt. Johanny Rosario, 25, of Lawrence, Mass.; Marine Cpl. Humberto Sanchez, 22, of Logansport, Ind.; and Marine Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz, 20, of Wentzville, Mo.

We pray, for the souls of those who are gone and their families, and for the safety of those who remain on duty; we fly our flags at half staff; and we pause for a moment when we enter a restaurant and see an empty table holding 13 glasses of beer or an empty barstool with 13 shots of whiskey sitting in front of it, with no further explanation needed than a simple card that reads “Reserved.”

Which brings us back to one of the major tenets of the news business — it’s nice to be the first to report a story or reveal a fact, but it’s even more important to have done as much as possible and made every attempt to be right.

That’s something we all need to be reminded of from time to time.

(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)


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