An apology to the family of Denise Lambert

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 7, 2008

By Kevin Chiri

I would like to issue an apology to the family of Denise Lambert, a Reserve woman who died earlier this week in an automobile accident on Airline Highway.

I got a call late Sunday about an accident, and as my job has me do, I headed out to see about getting pictures for the paper.

When I arrived on the scene, I saw that Mrs. Lambert was badly injured in the car and took pictures as I usually do. At the time she was clearly in serious condition, but did not appear to have life threatening injuries.

We set up the pictures to run in our Wednesday newspaper, and I checked on her condition late Monday, getting told by hospital officials that she was still in critical condition.

Since we are a small newspaper, we have to send our paper to press first thing on Tuesday and Friday mornings, so our news is finished by the evening before in almost all occasions. When I found out late Tuesday afternoon that Mrs. Lambert had passed away, it was too late to change the picture from the front page—which we definitely would have done had we known she passed away. By that time, our paper had long since been printed.

The picture was also put on our Internet web site, all as part of our normal job of covering the news.

We have a strict policy at our paper of not putting pictures in the paper of people who have died, but in this case, we were caught in a situation that was out of our control since the paper had gone to press by the time we found out she had passed away. Even though we couldn’t have done anything to change it, I still wanted to apologize to the family since I know it caused heartache for them to see her in the paper in that condition.

When we got a call late Tuesday afternoon from a family member who asked that we remove the picture from the web site, since she had passed away, I immediately told an employee to take care of it. Unfortunately, when I came in to work the next morning, the picture was not removed and I was told by the employee that she had gotten busy and forgotten to do it. The employee has since been reprimanded.

However, all of these excuses are not worth the words I am saying them with since we should have gotten the picture off the web site as soon as we knew she passed away, but we did not. Again, it was a serious mistake on our part that I apologize to the family for.

As I said, we definitely have a strict policy of not putting pictures in the paper of people who have died, so I would have never run Mrs. Lambert’s picture in the car had I known she passed away.

I was also criticized for not identifying the man in the picture as a family relative, but in the rush of the moment, there was no way for me to ask that individual their name, or find out at a later time. In these accident situations, it is very difficult to get information at all times, so we do not try to guess at who people are, even if we may suspect they might be a relative or friend. There was no way for me to know it was a family member with Mrs. Lambert, and I was not about to bother the person to ask a name since they were obviously comforting her at the time.

At this point, I offer my sympathy and condolences to the family. Our intention here at L’Observateur is never to cause pain or suffering for anyone at the expense of printing the paper, however in the course of covering the news, there are times that inadvertently happens.

In this case, the deadline situation did, in fact, put us in a situation where I know it appeared we were insensitive to the family. That is never our approach in covering the news and we would have never done anything to affect a family like that, at the benefit of selling a few papers.

Once again, as publisher of L’Observateur, I apologize to the family for any pain the picture may have caused and again offer my sympathy to you in your loss.

Make sure to get out to Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie this weekend where they will be hosting one of their biggest events of the year.

The 17th annual Arts and Crafts Festival will be held, and they promise over 170 talented artists and crafters. No kidding, this is a serious show to go to if you have any interest in arts and crafts.

The fun will be all weekend, beginning this morning at 9 a.m. and going until 6 p.m., then the festival will be open on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Of course there will be plenty of great Louisiana food, and don’t worry about bringing the kids since there will be plenty of fun for them as well.

Take the road across the river to the West Bank and head towards Baton Rouge before you run into Oak Alley Plantation at 3645 Highway 18 (River Road on the West Bank.)

Kevin Chiri is Publisher of L’Observateur and can be reached at (985) 652-9545 or at