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Slow news days turned into anything but

Don't get me wrong; newspaper editors like busy news days. But sometimes you just want to stop the world and get off, or at least slow it down enough that your head stops spinning.

The end of last week and beginning of this one were a combined case in point — a couple of days that beforehand seemed notable only for the sizable margins that Oregon State and the 49ers were expected to lose by on the gridiron.

In fact, Saturday and Monday seemed like days ripe for catching up. The hot stories on Saturday are typically of the local harvest fair variety; Mondays are often similar as we as a nation collectively shake off the weekend and brace ourselves for the long slog to Friday afternoon.

But instead of catching up on overdue tasks, our newsroom spent Saturday through Monday trying to catch up with the breaking news, and in too many cases, the accompanying tragedy.

It started Saturday morning with reports of someone shooting at traffic on Interstate 5 near the California border. As reporter Nick Morgan and photographer Jamie Lusch made their way to that scene, we got word of a homicide at nearby Callahan's Lodge. As news followers know, the two reports were linked — a man shot and killed Callahan's employee Ryan Bagley, stole his car and then stopped on the freeway five miles away and fired shots at an oncoming pickup, whose driver then ran over and killed the shooter.

A tragic and seemingly inexplicable event. Followed by a tragic and inexplicable event that shook the entire nation — the mass murders of 58 concert-goers and injuries/wounds to more than 500 others in Las Vegas. Reporter Vickie Aldous tracked down a Medford family that was in the hotel as the shooter fired from 31 floors above and we all quietly shook our heads at the magnitude and senselessness of it and at the helplessness this nation feels as these horrendous acts occur with greater frequency.

There wasn't much time to ponder it in the newsroom Monday morning. Reports came over the scanner of an "active shooter" in the Table Rock Road area north of Interstate 5, at about the same time Medford police were engaged in a manhunt amid the hillside homes on Roxy Ann. The "active shooter" proved to be a guy who fired a shot in the air; the manhunt's targets were later arrested and accused of murdering a Medford man.

As that was being slowly sorted out, a fire broke out in a Medford apartment complex, forcing 10 families out of what remained of their homes. And Oregon State Police weighed in with a report that the bodies of a Glendale couple had been recovered south of Lake of the Woods after their plane went down en route to Medford. Later that night came the report that a 79-year-old Medford woman had been stabbed multiple times by an unknown assailant.

I don't have some larger truth to what it all means. Drug use and mental illness often seem at the root of many acts of violence; if anyone has a solution to those two ills, please share it.

The old axiom for TV news is, "if it bleeds, it leads." For newspapers it's "sensationalism sells papers." I can't speak for others, but for me, I don't want to sell newspapers that way.

— Bob Hunter is an associate editor with the Mail Tribune. Reach him at bhunter@mailtribune.com.