From the Editor: To jail report or not to jail report
January 9, 2018
Over the past several months, you've likely noticed some changes, both in the look and layout of the Craig Press print edition and in the presentation of our online content. I know that change is often a difficult prospect, and it's my genuine hope you've approved of the changes we've made so far.
That said, we are currently considering — please notice, I say "considering" — another change which some of you — or maybe all of you — might not find so pleasing. So, before we move forward with a decision on that change, I wanted to explain why we're considering it and ask for your input.
First, let me lay my cards on the table: We're considering doing away with publication of the Moffat County Jail Report.
Now, before any of you start heating the tar or preparing the rail, let me explain my concerns with our continued publication of the jail report (not to be confused with the police blotter, which we have no plans to eliminate).
First — and after long and careful reflection — I'm no longer convinced that publishing the report is fair to the people whose names appear therein. I say this because an arrest is only that — an arrest — and the fact that someone was arrested on suspicion of a crime in no way means that person is guilty of the crime. Often, suspects are acquitted or the charges are dropped before the case even arrives in court.
In a perfect world, we would follow every arrest in the jail report to its final disposition, then publish the results of those dispositions. Unfortunately, however, we have neither the time nor the resources to follow every case to its conclusion, and it seems fundamentally unfair to publish every arrest without following up with every outcome.
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Second, the world of journalism has changed tremendously with the rise of the internet. No longer are stories printed one day and mostly forgotten the next, nor are they limited to a local audience.
Consider the following scenario:
Someone is arrested tomorrow for driving under the influence of alcohol. The person recognizes the error of his or her action, pays the penalty for his or her infraction, and resolves never to drink and drive again, a resolution he or she faithfully keeps.
Ten years down the road, the same person applies for a job, and during a pre-employment screening, the hiring manager runs a Google search on his or her name. Up pops a DUI arrest from 10 years ago, and as a result, the person is removed from consideration for the job. In effect, by publishing the jail report online, we're allowing everything a person has ever done to follow that person for the rest of his or her life.
That being the case, should we decide to move forward with eliminating the jail report, we would also purge all past jail reports from our website.
On the other side of the coin, the Craig Press is a newspaper whose job it is to report the news, and arrests and jail bookings are a matter of public record.
So … maybe you can see my conundrum.
I realize the jail report is a popular feature and that many of you may object to our very consideration of doing away with it. That's why I wanted to ask what you think. It's likely you have perspectives I've not yet considered, so please share those perspectives with me.
If you'd like to offer an opinion as to why you think we should keep the jail report or why you think we should nix it, please email me at jpatterson@CraigDailyPress.com.
The best kind of journalism is a conversation, a respectful, back-and-forth exchange between us, as journalists, and you, as readers.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Jim Patterson is editor of the Craig Press. Contact him at jpatterson@CraigDailyPress.com or 970-875-1790.