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Generous readers help Burrito Man's kids

By Steve Hendrix

We wrote two weeks ago about the sad and sudden death of Carlos Guardado, the burrito vendor who made the corner of 17th and K Streets NW his daytime home for almost 20 years. It was clear that Carlos -- a kind man with an obvious love of humanity -- was beloved by his lunchtime clientele, and the sweep of his renown became even more clear in the many comments posted on our story.

But readers offered more than sweet sentiments. We included, at the end of the story, the address of a fund quickly established in the names of Carlos' two children, Alison (a student at the University of Maryland) and Mathew (a MoCo middle schooler). According to downtown lawyer Robert Tigner, readers to date have donated more than $12,000.

That's great to hear, but at the time I wasn't even sure we could include that information in a news story (it ran in italics at the end of the piece). It was Tigner -- a regular costumer of Guardado's whom I met on the street in the course of reporting the story -- who asked if I could run the address. When I asked editor Marc Fisher he said, instantly: sure thing.

What do you think? Is there any problem in devoting a little space at the conclusion of a feature like this to let readers know how they can help? I'm glad we did, but some would argue that providing such information is stepping out of and away from our responsibility to just report the facts and let readers be solely responsible for the conclusions and any action to come out of those facts. What's your take? The comment boards are open....

By Steve Hendrix  | October 29, 2010; 10:25 AM ET
Categories:  Hard choices, The Blowback  
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Don't question yourselves too much for doing the right thing.

Stories like these make it possible to read all the others in the paper.

Posted by: bflorhodes | October 29, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

I have no problem with it. The family is definitely going through a hard time after their loss and people will have no problem wanting to help.

This isn't one of those hard, "just the facts, ma'am" stories. This story reached people's hearts.

Posted by: GoldenSilence | October 29, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Just reports the facts...well, the facts are that a fund was set up in each of the children's names, for those wishing to donate. Since those are the facts then they should be included in the story. Readers wishing to donate can choose to do so and others can choose not to donate. The Post is not condoning any action one way or another by merely including all the facts of the story. Good job Post. Whatever action we, as readers, choose to do, we still want the whole story.

Posted by: LGGC | October 29, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

The story regarding Carlos Guardado was one of the best I have read in years. Very simple, but showed how hard work, persistence, and most especially friendliness, are important to people. I pray for his family and commend the Post for helping direct readers on how to help. While such an action could be criticized if overdone, in this case it is especially fitting.

Posted by: slydell | October 29, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

When news stations cover someone's untimely unfortune like a fire or abuse case, the public always wants to know ways to help and they provide a bank, fund or trust of some sort for us to make donations, what difference is it in death? As a former customer of the Burrito Man, I think he would be honored that his customers really did appreciate his smile and someone was willing to get the word out on how to help, especially his beloved kids. I think it was a great gesture, not only the feature article in memory of him but to get the word out of his untimely death. I remember going to his cart for 3 years in a row when I worked nearby, he was so polite and generous, so happy to know someone set up something for them

Posted by: chynkyeyes1 | October 29, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Couldn't hurt to help.

Posted by: MLainez | October 29, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

I have no problem with including the address of the fund, but I think the better question is... Is it appropriate to report publicly the amount raised by the fund to be given to these children? I would be interested to know if the family wanted that information to be made public?

Posted by: DaveC07 | October 29, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Great thing to help where needed...Media should be used in this way more.

Posted by: kahlua87 | October 29, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

It's good to see something in the paper that not negative.

Posted by: PublicEnemy1 | October 29, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

I'm in favor of your decision to include the link. The results are that we all feel better.

Posted by: ny2va2001 | October 29, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

As a former reporter, I totally support the decision to include the fund. People often complain that the media only covers the bad news, and the news of this man's death was, in fact, bad. But by posting the item about the fund, you've helped the generous people of this area to make this a better story. I applaud your editor's saying yes instantly.

Posted by: ilovemd | October 29, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse

You did a good thing, end of story.

Posted by: kbockl | October 29, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

definitely don't second-guess including information about the fund that has been established for mr. guardado's children!

too often people are truly touched by a human interest story they read in the newspaper, and are left wanting to make a meaningful gesture but have no idea how to follow up.

you and your editor made everyone feel even more like a community, especially those who were regular patrons and knew mr. guardado...

... and that can't be anything but good news in times when bad news is all around us.

Posted by: potomacfever00 | October 29, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Just do what you think is right for cripes sake. Think for yourselves and stop whining about "what will people think?????" Stop being so lame and controlled by Groupthink. Grow a pair for crimini sake - this what is wrong with people today.

Posted by: davis_renee | October 29, 2010 7:08 PM | Report abuse

You must be kidding! There's nothing wrong with doing that. Don't your obits tell people where to send contributions?

Posted by: smrboxwell | October 29, 2010 8:16 PM | Report abuse

I also can't believe you're questioning it. It is actually of news value that people valued this person so much they set up a way to help his kid. Also, reporters are people, too.

Posted by: melissa5 | October 29, 2010 10:08 PM | Report abuse

You have to draw a line. It seems harmless to help this good man's kids.

It's not hard to imagine that the Washington Post, with its obvious political leanings, doesn't start including a favored candidate's website address (where donations can be made) at the end of a story. It's also not hard to imagine a story about a group protesting a candidate the the Washington Post opposes and including the link to a PAC that is running attack ads against this person.

So those are examples where it's clearly ok and not ok. How do you draw a line in the grey area? What if you did a story about an environmental issue and gave a link to Greenpeace's website? What if you did a story about the anti-immigration Minutemen and gave a link to their website? What if you did a story on Michelle Rhee and gave a link to an educational foundation that she just started. Although he isn't, what if Mr. Guardado were instead a controversial figure (a Cindy Sheehan or a Jim Gilchrist) where a gift to their kids amounts to a donation to their cause? Giving links to sites that exist for fundraising crosses the line from reporting into advocacy.

This is the wrong place to be asking this question because in this context, you make it seem like there is only right answer.

Posted by: reston75 | October 30, 2010 12:46 AM | Report abuse

As a reporter, I have no problem with listing this information when the reader may well be wanting to know how to make a donation. I just finished writing an article about a group in Wisconsin that brings WWII veterans to DC to see the WWII and other memorials and I included its website for further information and a chance to donate.

Posted by: KatieB9056 | October 30, 2010 9:25 AM | Report abuse

I have absolutely no problem with providing this information, and wish more reporters/editors would do so in such a situation. It's certainly not a solicitation on the part of the news organization.

Posted by: milano99_99 | October 30, 2010 9:31 AM | Report abuse

In a case as worthy of support as this one, there is no threat to objectivity. Where I used to work before retirement, there were a few local vendors. It was good to see their familiar faces every day. Reminded me of my home town in Michigan.

Posted by: rossbob | October 30, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

It was a good idea to provide the information as you did. Readers may not have known how to easily get this information.

Thank you for listing it; it was factual information that was appropriate for this story.

Posted by: DIDS | October 31, 2010 11:32 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

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