A shortage of common sense is often reflected by an act of poor judgment.
That is the case with a Times photo shoot.
The Times annual prep football preview was published last month with a roster of players for each region high school team. It is an annual ritual for our sports department. It lets the sports staff get acquainted with coaches and players for the upcoming season.
As a part of the preview, the staff selects all-star offense and defense squads made up of players from throughout the region.
How best to depict these chosen players in the preview becomes a challenge.
Considering this year’s preview section gave emphasis to a rebuilding of teams in the urban area, someone decided an East Chicago rail yard would serve well as a background.
And so the photographer and football players met up at a CSX Railroad facility there.
The photos in the preview section show the players around, on and inside rail cars. It made for an interesting backdrop.
The problem is the rail yard is private property, and no one at The Times thought to secure permission to photograph there.
Worse yet is that in some cases, the photos depict players in situations that are deemed unsafe. In short, we left the players vulnerable.
In addition, trespassing at the rail yard is a criminal offense. That means the photographer and each player involved with the East Chicago photo session could be charged. Not a happy prospect.
Robert Mahan, of Cedar Lake, special agent in charge of the CSX Railroad Police’s Chicago Division, saw the preview section and came to see me. He pointed to the trespassing, the photos reflecting unsafe practices and the fact criminal charges could be leveled.
Well, the high school students can rest easy. Mahan is an understanding man and isn’t going to seek charges.
Instead, he wants a lesson to be learned — about trespassing on railroad property and how unsafe a railroad site can be without knowing proper safety procedures.
Those who labor daily in the rail yards know well of the dangers there and are trained to operate safely.
As for The Times, I apologize to the railroad and to the student athletes we unwittingly put in a bad situation.
It’s clear that a lack of applying common sense led to a decision with poor judgment. I can assure you this is not how we at The Times wish to conduct ourselves.