All’s well that ends well, so that will be the epitaph on a tense couple of hours that unfolded on Thursday afternoon at Robeson Community College.
There is a modest story in our newspaper today — and it is modest for a reason, even though we could have dressed it up with a sensational headline, placed at the top of A1 and sold a few more copies. The point of today’s Our View is to explain why we didn’t.
First, a brief recap on what happened — and, thankfully, what didn’t.
On Thursday, shortly before lunch, a student at RCC reported seeing a gunman on campus. Police were called, the school was locked down, and after a search of just more than two hours, nothing was found and the campus began morphing back to normal.
Some accolades are due administrators at RCC who acted quickly and made good decisions, and to Lumberton police who responded with haste appropriately and to defuse what was potentially an explosive situation.
This newspaper received several phones call from people wondering what was happening at RCC — and we gathered the information, and quickly posted it on robesonian.com, the first story saying a search was underway, and the second saying everything was clear. A final version with a few more details is what is published in today’s print edition.
We don’t know if there was a gunman on the RCC campus who slid through the net, or if this was a false alarm, but we thought now would be a good time to answer a question we frequently receive: Why doesn’t the newspaper report bomb threats? As a matter of routine, we don’t if the threat turns out to be bogus, but this call is more art than science.
As an example, there was a recent bogus bomb threat that emptied the county courthouse that this newspaper elected not to report. Similar empty threats also occur periodically at local schools, and we don’t report those either.
The reason is basic: These calls are typically made by a prankster, someone who wants a trial to be delayed or who hasn’t studied enough and wants the math test postponed. We don’t want to reward that kind of foolishness with a big headline in our newspaper, believing that it will inspire similar nonsense.
The obvious exception would be if a device were found — or if there were some utility in alerting the public.
Thursday’s incident at RCC was different: Someone thought they saw a weapon on campus, so the threat appeared real — not staged. Additionally, we had callers with questions and we believed that answering those questions would help calm the situation, not inflame it.
As a newspaper, we are assigned the task of reporting news in Robeson County, but as a member of this community, we also believe it’s important identify what news is.