When longtime and much-loved Brattleboro Union High School teacher Gary Blomgren died earlier this week, it was obvious we wanted to write a nice memorial piece for the newspaper. But another challenge arose: How to present the news to the public in a timely fashion when, apart from a sentence confirming he had died, there wasn't much to report (his obituary was not available until Friday; Gary died on Wednesday).
(Note: The print part was taken care of by a letter to the editor, triggered by our Facebook post, discussed below.)
Instead, what we did was post a small item on Facebook and encourage readers to share their thoughts. Within a few hours we saw hundreds of people view the post, "like" it (to keep up with the news) and/or share their memories of "Mr. B." And, as it turns out, his son came across the item -- which had become a makeshift memorial of sorts -- and was able to enjoy this outpouring of community support.
Fast-forward to the weekend edition, and we were able to not only craft a memorial piece on Gary, talking to family and friends, but also share (via print this time) many of the nice messages that appeared on Facebook over the past couple of days. Plus we were, in turn, able to re-direct folks back to Facebook to share their thoughts (in the end, 2,000-plus views and counting, with more than 50 comments and 15-plus shares).
It was a nice, community-generated, companion piece to our typical news coverage.