I have just finished reading the autopsy reports on Paul Walker and Roger Rodas. The "Fast and Furious" star and Rodas were killed when the Porsche Carrera GT Rodas was driving went out of control on a Santa Clarita street and smashed into a tree at a speed of more than 100mph. There was no alcohol or drugs found in either of their bodies. There was little carbon monoxide in their lungs indicating the impact, more than the fire, killed them. And that's really most of what we need to know, isn't it?
We journalists love details. We gather as much as we can on a story so we can be as certain as possible that those facts we do report have a firm foundation—context. That doesn't mean we report all of those details. Walker and Rodas died horrible deaths and you really don't need to look at the Medical Examiner's sketches and diagrams surrounding the outline of a body to get that. But this is the age of websites that think they earn their stripes by displaying full documents such as autopsy reports.
There are no hard and fast rules on this sort of thing but, when reporting on seemingly innocent people, I try to ask, "How would I hope the story would read if it were about me?" Paul Walker's family certainly doesn't want the grizzly details of what happened to his body to be seen by the public. Good reporting is the combination of doggedly gathering the facts then thoughtfully balancing the public's right to know with the individuals' right to privacy.
KTTV FOX 11 1999 S. Bundy Dr. Los Angeles CA 90025