Naming criminals or alleged perpetrators in our community is a necessary role of our newspaper staff. However, we do have to ask ourselves when to name and when not to name.
When I became the editor in 2015, I spent many days reflecting on our position in regard to crime stories. How much information do we share, when does graphic detail help the community and when does it harm our readers without adding to the greater good?
Every time we publish a crime story we again re-assess our values and ethics when reporting on these sensitive and troubling issues. One of my greatest concerns is protecting victims in our stories, especially when they are minors. In the past year, we have had phone calls from detectives and advocates informing us of the stress and trauma we have caused victims because our stories were too detailed or revealed the identity of those involved. In response, we tightened our restrictions on what we write. We realize the community at large may often know more about the crime than what is in our story, but we still feel responsible to be ethical.
In the story published in our Dec. 13 edition about a woman allegedly raping a teenager, we initially did not name the alleged perpetrator because information was already in the community linking her to the victim. Now that she has entered a plea, we feel we have no choice but to name her. We will continue to do our best to leave the victim out of the story.
Publishing the names of islanders charged or convicted of crimes will not end violence on our fair isles, but I believe that the success of our democratic nation relies on its citizens to be informed. Informing our readers of criminal activity is a necessary part of the information landscape of our islands.
I appreciate community feedback on our reporting; it is the only way for us to remain fair and accurate. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or concerns. I am available to meet with any of our readers to discuss our policies. I also welcome letters to the editor. We publish all letters as long as they are signed by county residents and under 350 words.