MATT SCHUBERT’S PREP NOTES: Getting it wrong on many levels

THE CARDINAL RULE of journalism: Get your facts straight before putting anything in print.

Because I failed to do that after Thursday night’s Port Townsend-Chimacum girls basketball game, the Cossell family suffered even more pain than necessary during an already trying and emotional week.

For that, I can never apologize enough.

Jodi Cossell — mother to Chimacum High School sophomore Mallori and senior Jordan, and wife to Cowboys softball coach Bobby Cossell — passed away Friday after suffering cardiac arrest three days earlier.

When Port Townsend and Chimacum gathered to play its loser-out playoff basketball game in Bruce Blevins Gymnasium that night, some thought Jodi had already died.

Others knew she was going to be taken off life-support at Harrison Medical Center in Bremerton but was still alive.

Mallori, a starting shooting guard for the Cowboys, and two other starters were not present. And many of the Cowboys in uniform wept openly during warmups.

A moment of silence and a team statement submitted to public address announcer Scott Wilson from the Chimacum girls only added to the confusion.

“We’re playing this game for Jodi Cossell not in a competitive spirit, but because it’s what she would want us to do,” the statement read, according to Wilson, also the publisher of the Port Townsend and Jefferson County Leader.

Having already heard rumors of her death from a number of sources at the game, I made the assumption those were true without verifying it with members of the Cossell family.

After the game, Chimacum girls coach Brad Burlingame used words like “circumstance” and “situation” to describe the state of Jodi’s health.

Since I failed to ask for clarification on those statements — thinking he was instead referring to Jodi’s rumored death, rather than her actual dire condition — I also failed to discover the truth from him.

It’s a mistake that led me to go to print in Friday morning’s editions with a story that was erroneous at press time. (The online version at peninsuladailynews.com was immediately corrected Friday morning.)

It’s a mistake I’ll regret for the rest of my life.

That’s not just because it reflected poorly on me as a journalist, but also because it inflicted even more trauma on a family that had been through so much in so short a time.

On Monday, Mallori knocked down eight 3-pointers on the way to a 45-point night in a 67-42 playoff-clinching Cowboy win over Orting.

The next morning, Jodi — a Chimacum School District board member and employee of the Jefferson County Assessor’s Office — was rushed to Harrison Medical Center.

To have the highest of highs (Mallori’s possible Chimacum record-breaking night) followed by the lowest of lows (Jodi’s heart attack) is bad enough.

To also have to read about a family member dying before it even happened is more than anyone should have to bear.

________

Matt Schubert is the outdoors and sports columnist for the Peninsula Daily News. His column regularly appears on Thursdays and Fridays. He can be reached at matt.schubert@peninsuladailynews.com.

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