Eric: When are you going to put me in the paper?
Me: When you do something really great or really stupid?
Eric: Stupid? Like what?
Me: Get arrested.
Eric: You would put your cousin in the paper if he got arrested?
Me: Yeah. If it’s bad enough I will put you on the front page with a picture.
Eric: (Surprised face)
I have had this conversation with all of my cousins, and many of my close friends. I have had this conversation with my co-workers. In fact, I was always told that if I got arrested while working at the paper, expect to see my mug (pun intended) on the front page.
Do I like having to tell people that? No, absolutely not.
But I have mouths to feed, so I have to do my job. That includes putting people in the paper that I’m related to or know.
Some people understand and know I’m just doing my job, while others tend to question my loyalty and values. My loyalty and values are never out of sync, even when I write. I actually think it makes me a better writer.
Aside from that, I often have to explain that if something happens and we write about it, we can’t erase that it happened.
I am the first to say come tell your side of the story or if something else comes out of the story, we will write that too. However, the later outcome cannot change the fact that the initial event happened.
Stay with me here.
If someone is arrested for drug possession in a public park, we will run that story. We don’t always hear about it, but when we do, we can’t unhear it. Unfortunately, that arrest happened, and we will cover it.
If court cases show that the drugs did not belong to the suspect and we find out he or she was unjustly arrested, we will run that too.
What we will not do is try to erase that the arrest happened.
Just like we cover the negative, we will also cover the positive or the follow-up to the original.
At the same time, everyone is subject to being on the front or inside the paper. It really just depends on the situation. If someone is caught with several pounds of drugs on the same day that the Ducks win the state (in any sport), you can bet we’ll devote the full front page to our winning team.
Let this be a message to elected officials and public figures. I think they all already know this, but no one is immune to press. Not family, not friends, not family friends, not enemies – nobody.
And when we have to write it, it’s not anything personal, it’s just a part of the job. Every week when I get the arrest report, I never want to see someone I know. That doesn’t always happen though.
Sometimes it’s not that big of a deal, but when it is, I still have to do my job. I tell my friends all the time, whether obituary or arrest report, “please don’t come across my desk.”
I’m going to get off my soapbox now and see if I can find somewhere to shoot some hoops. It’s time to start preparing for the 3-on-3. I’m not playing, don’t get scared.
“It's a journalist's job to be a witness to history. We're not there to worry about ourselves. We're there to try and get as near as we can, in an imperfect world, to the truth and get the truth out.”
- Robert Fisk