We seldom respond to letters to the editor, but one we are publishing today merits a comment about how the newspaper handles certain stories.
One thing we have committed ourselves to is trying to treat each person fairly. Every story published in the paper isn't going to be full of sunshine and kudos. There are times we cover events that aren't pleasant. However, we work very hard to treat the people mentioned in each story in a fair and impartial manner.
Regardless if you are a prominent citizen or a "regular Joe" and you commit a crime, we should treat everyone the same.
The letter by Mrs. Derick implies we publish certain news stories to "sensationalize" and sell more papers. We would have written the story in question if the person involved wasn't a prominent citizen because of the significance of the issue. We believe there is no reason to treat the prominent members of our community differently.
We could have "juiced" up the story by including a lot of tantalizing details, putting a large, bold headline on the story and could have moved it to the top of Page 1 but we didn't. That would have been sensationalizing.
In every story we publish, there is always extenuating information that may not be available to a reporter. That is why we call the individual and ask if he or she wants to make any comments regarding the story or add any information that might help the reader put the story in perspective. In this instance, we called the individual at work and home Thursday afternoon and eventually reached her Friday morning. If the individual declines the opportunity to speak, the reporter can only print the information available to him or her. When someone chooses "no comment," it is impossible to tell a complete story.
No stories are printed with the intent to hurt someone or "ruin someone's reputation." We have printed a multitude of stories about people who have been arrested and sentenced for illegal use or possession of drugs. Whether they were prescription drugs obtained illegally or simply illegal drugs, we have tried to give the stories we've printed the same treatment regardless of who was involved.
We have published many, many stories about drug-related issues in the paper and we treated them the same as we did the person Mrs. Derick refers to, and no one complained.
Just because one person is more prominent doesn't mean they get special treatment. That is the fairest we know how to be.
As always, if you don't like the way we handle a story, you are welcome to write a letter to the editor. Believe it or not, we enjoy publishing opinions that differ from our opinions. We are glad Mrs. Derick shared her opinion.