Do you want us to continue ‘cops and robbers’?
I’m a people watcher. And, as a newspaper editor, I watch even more closely when I see someone reading the paper.
It usually looks like this ” They skim the front page. Read the headline. Look at the photo. They flip through the pages, doing the same. Photo. Headline. Maybe read a paragraph or two of a story.
Then they stop ” mid-way through the paper and start reading every word.
I used to strain to see what it was that grabbed their attention, but I’ve seen it enough times to know exactly what it is.
Cops and Robbers.
For better or worse, it’s the most-read section of the newspaper. And, I’ve found, the most controversial.
During this whole business of redesigning the newspaper and turning it into a daily, that one topic keeps rising to the surface in an opinion tug-of-war with me in the middle.
When we didn’t run Cops and Robbers one week ” completely on accident ” the receptionist and myself spent the next week fielding angry calls.
The masses, it seems, love to read the names and mistakes of their neighbors.
The next week, we ran Cops and Robbers ” though we don’t use that name anymore ” and the calls stopped.
Well, the calls stopped from the readers who like the weekly jail and court log.
Instead, I started hearing from the other side ” those who think it is “tacky” or “cruel” to run the names of people who have been arrested or who appeared in court.
Universally, the argument is two-fold.
First, they say that people get their names in the paper when they are arrested, but we never print anything if they are found to be not guilty.
Next to the jail log, we print the record from the courts, including the judgments and punishments.
If someone is exonerated at that time, that’s where it would end up in the paper.
If you are arrested and later found “not guilty,” and if we miss it and you would like it in the paper, call us and we’ll gladly print it.
The second argument is that this is a small town and getting your name in the jail log is humiliating and can potentially ruin your life ” socially and professionally.
I must end up in a conversation about our jail and court reports at least once a day, which has prompted me to ask other editors about their approach and their reasoning behind publishing that information.
Honestly, they say, we print it because people read it.
I’ve only talked to one editor ” the editor of our sister newspaper, the Summit Daily News ” who doesn’t run the reports.
Though I can’t find the history, or frankly any discussion at all, of why newspapers run the jail log, I imagine it arising from the puritanical tradition of putting people in the stocks.
Americans love to publicly humiliate those people who have done something wrong. If you don’t believe me, turn on the television.
What that adds to the greater good is still up for debate. And that’s exactly where I’d like to leave it ” up for debate.
On our Web site, http://www.skyhidailynews.com, I’ve posted a poll question ” Should the newspaper run the jail and court reports?
I’ll publish the results next week.
And, if you’d like to share your opinion in more depth, please write a letter to the editor. I’d like to see this discussion out in the open, in the pages of the paper ” rather than in the privacy of my office or on my phone.
Send letters to my e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, mail them to Autumn Phillips, Sky-Hi Daily News, P.O. Box 409, Granby, CO 80446 or bring them by the office at 424 E. Agate Avenue in Granby.
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