Editorial: Proceed with caution | CraigDailyPress.com

Editorial: Proceed with caution

Our View

Some have been critical of the Craig Daily Press’ policy on withholding the names of those charged with sexual offenses. But, the policy has logic behind it, Editorial Board members contend.

Our View

Some have been critical of the Craig Daily Press’ policy on withholding the names of those charged with sexual offenses. But, the policy has logic behind it, Editorial Board members contend.

It’s doubtful there is a crime more shocking and offensive to society’s senses than sexual assaults, especially those against innocent and defenseless children.

These crimes are heinous and entail a degree of violence and trauma to the victim that’s beyond comprehension.

News stories of these crimes, and the disturbing fact that they’re showing an increasing trend in Craig and Moffat County, have been documented in the Craig Daily Press.

Often coinciding with these stories is a recurring question to newspaper staffers from concerned readers:

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Why do you withhold the name of someone suspected of a sexual offense?

It’s an understandable inquiry, and one the Editorial Board discussed at its Monday meeting.

The reasons behind this policy aren’t simple. In fact, the Daily Press often debates the policy and how and whether it should apply to news stories about almost every person who has been arrested and charged with such a crime.

At its core, the newspaper’s policy to withhold the names of people suspected or charged with sexual-related offenses comes down to one primary goal — protecting the identity of victims of alleged offenses.

There are other considerations, to be sure, but shielding victims from undue attention is priority number one.

This, of course, isn’t always an answer people like to hear.

There are concerned residents or parents who want to know more about the alleged offender than just the pedigree information the newspaper releases — age, gender, and their town or city of record.

But, additional information is available, if someone is motivated enough to get it.

If an arrest has been made, residents can most often acquire what they seek through police, sheriff’s office or court records. The newspaper, again primarily for the sake of victims, simply chooses not to publish it until there is a conviction.

There’s another factor that impacts the newspaper’s decision on offender names: our judicial system, which considers people innocent until proven guilty. This courtesy isn’t one often extended by the general public, but it exists in our legal system, nonetheless.

If, for example, someone is arrested and charged with a sexual offense and that person’s name is released publicly, there’s an immediate stigma attached to that person.

If the alleged offender is proven guilty, he or she is likely going to prison and the offender label is deserved. But, what if they’re proven innocent of charges?

Given the digital trail that can follow people for years, the offender stigma is one difficult to shed, and one impossible if he or she stays in our small community, where gossip and the rumor mill sometimes work overtime.

Again, considerations for the alleged offender don’t drive the newspaper’s policy, but they play a factor.

Editorial Board members support the newspaper’s policy. The decisions on these cases are never easy, and if the newspaper errs, it’s best to do so on the side of caution, board members contend.

That isn’t always easy.

Newspaper employees are people, too, and many of them have children. They can also be shocked and appalled by the allegations against offenders. They sometimes share that knee-jerk reaction to consider an alleged offender guilty right from the get-go.

But, we must be careful and cautious to let the system do its job, allow facts to come out and the case to unfold. The Editorial Board encourages the public to have the same approach.

It’s far from a perfect system, by any measure. Sadly, considering the growing trend, it’s one we’re all becoming more familiar with.

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