Baumgarten: Save judgement until facts are known

Social media can be a cruel, fickle frenemy (that's the word for someone that is both friend and enemy, but I'm not going to talk about that concept).

Social media can be a cruel, fickle frenemy (that's the word for someone that is both friend and enemy, but I'm not going to talk about that concept).

Part of my job includes scouring Facebook, Twitter and media outlets for news tips. In that sense, Facebook makes for a good tipster for hot stories. It's also great for spreading news. Sometimes, stories are great and fly across the Internet. Other times they are shocking. Sometimes, I wonder if those spread faster, like wildfire through the California forests. Either way, readers can get their daily dose of news -- or some version of it -- just by scrolling down their Facebook feed.

The flip side is that this can spur numerous, sometimes nasty rumors, not to mention some very hurtful and judgemental comments. Call it the technological version of coffee talk -- that chatter of people meeting at a cafe before the sun comes up, sitting at their "reserved" table and seeing who can come up with the craziest story while they drink their coffee.

I was sitting at the dinner table as I scrolled through the news, only to find that North Dakota Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler had been arrested for domestic violence. Court documents state she allegedly "struck her boyfriend, Todd Tschosik, with an object causing injury to his face." She now faces a Class B misdemeanor simple assault charge.

The story quickly spread across social media, easily becoming one of the most talked about in North Dakota. Comments, for the most part, were mixed. Some asked Baesler to resign. Others fell short of calling Tschosik an abusive fiance. Many made accusations against each side, even going as far as, "If I were in her situation ..." or "I would have never ..."


Let's just step back a bit.

Baesler claims she was concerned for her safety. Obviously, Tschosik felt at risk enough to press charges. There are also reports of Tschosik assaulting Baesler, though those charges in Florida were dropped.

So who do we believe? The answer is no one. Here's why: We weren't there.

There were some witnesses that saw the alleged attack, Tschosik claims, though he declined to comment further on the matter for legal reasons. Baesler issued a statement, but she also declined comment for legal reasons.

People are going to talk, no matter what you tell them. Some are going to be cruel. Some are going to claim they know everything, including what Baesler or Tschosik should have done.

But the truth is that things happen so fast in a domestic situation. Tempers flare and fists fly.

Don't think I take this lightly. Domestic violence is very serious. It's not just a form a physical abuse. The mental state of a person is greatly affected. And no one can understand, or claim to understand, what happened or should happen in any situation.

To say the least, the situation is complicated. The facts will eventually come out.


Until then, it's best not to jump to any conclusions, or to condemn either side just yet. Save the judgments and be respectful. Some day you could be in a similar situation, and it won't feel so good when thousands of fingers are pointing at you.

Baumgarten is the assistant editor of The Dickinson Press. Email her at . Like her on Facebook at . Follow her at

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