To name, or not to name…

November 3, 2015

Recently there was a comment made on one of the posts that was on our JCNE Facebook page. Once we post an article, it automatically posts right onto our page. The article was about a drug bust that occurred at the Jacksboro High School. The comment was in regards to publishing the name(s) of the individuals that were arrested, or under investigation. It was a very legitimate question, why not name names?

As the owner/editor of the Jack County New Edition, I have to make decisions that, at times, can ultimately effect others. As a reporter for “the other paper” I learned a really good lesson through the chance meeting of a grandparent of a subject of one of my stories.

The young man I wrote about had stolen a car, wrecked it and became the subject of a foot chase between himself and law enforcement. Just out of pure chance, the subject met a local resident that ultimately calmed the young man down to the point of where it was possible for law enforcement to make the arrest without further incident. As a reporter for “them”, I was told to get names, photos, etc… part of the story was that the young man had what appeared to be scars on his neck, and a very distinct tattoo (although we did not describe it) The story went out on the front page and it was NEWS!

Later that week, I was in the grocery store and the clerk had said my name out loud a couple of times. An older gentleman had been standing nearby, talking to the store manager. Suddenly the man walked up to me and asked me my name. When I (hesitantly) told him he said “Oh, you’re the one that wrote about the young man that stole the car”…I acknowledged that I was and he said to me “That young man is my grandson”.  I didn’t know WHERE it was going from there and found myself relieved when he told me that he appreciated the way that I had handled the story. Then he told me that his grandson had been in a tragic accident at the age of 8 that left him almost dead, and that the medicines he had to rely on just to live were also the same things that had changed this young man’s personality and reasoning.

I felt a sense of compassion for that man and the family. Now, maybe compassion isn’t as prevalent in news as it used to be, and still should be. Too many times the media takes a story and determines to expose the details, for the sake of ratings or readership. I’m not saying that it is wrong, it’s just not the way I conduct my business. Or at least I try not to. But what I learned that day was that…no matter who the subject of my story is… they are someone’s child, or someone’s brother (or sister) or wife or father or cousin. If I neglect to leave the name out there for the world to see, it is out of respect to those that are not involved that would feel the hurt. And the reality is this…what benefit to me or anyone that reads my story is there from publishing a name? Most likely we don’t know the person. All I need to know is what happened. And in the event of a car wreck…do I really need to see the car that a person lost their life in? No. Would seeing that in an article cause additional pain for the family? Yes, therefore…I won’t.

Another reason to leave out certain details is to prevent damaging a person’s case. I would hate to think that something I said was in any part responsible for putting an innocent person in jail OR allowing a criminal to get out of jail.

So, there you have it. Some of you may not agree with my thinking, and that’s okay! I will respect your opinion and thank you for respecting mine. That’s how its supposed to be!

As always, thank you for reading. You have truly blessed me and my “venture”. I love bringing you stories and appreciate each and every one of you!

Have a great week!!

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