Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The joy of being in charge

As soon as I entered the office this morning, I got pushed into the conference room by our advertising director.

"Great, you're here!" he said with relief and kept directing me away from my office and into teh big room.

He then turned to walk away, a little too quickly, and I could hear him mumble "enjoy" under his breath.

In the conference room were two angry black women and my publisher, all looking a bit distraught.
"I just don't understand," one of the women said. "Why you gotta put my background information in? Why you gotta do that?"

Once we established she was one of the people who had been arrested a few days ago, and was accused of wielding a knife at a young man allegedly smoking crack cocaine outside her building, she claimed she'd never been convicted of anything and that everything about the knife was false.

We calmly told her we could check our facts but that the information came from the local police, and if there was anything wrong, she would have to take it up with them.

The friend said "See, I told you so! Why you gotta come here and yell at them for???" and then the real action took off.

We showed them to the elevator door, but the two women argued louder and louder and were finally screaming at each other "You're not the one who's losing the house - you just shut the (expletive) up!)"

Others in our office were hiding in their cubicles, wondering if they should call the cops.

The elevator finally came and off the women went - with a few faded screams as the elevator took them down 4 floors. It could not leave fast enough.

Of course, once we checked the court records online and her arrest report, the woman was indeed guilty of drug violations and violating a protective order and police did indeed say she threatened a man with a knife over the weekend. It didn't make us feel any better about the situation.

As I made it to my office, I had a call from a reader in Killingworth telling me that apparently said in our paper that the New Haven mayor - an outstanding and friendly man - was being investigated for by federal officials for taking bribes from a developer, when in fact it was the mayor of Shelton who was under investigation.

"How could we do this to such a nice man?" the reader wanted to know.

And finally, someone who was named frequently in the comment section of our web site decided to hit "report abuse" on any comment that mentioned his name, which lead us to a long discussion on what constitutes a public person. Is the man who owns most of the company where six people just died in an explosion considered a public person? The story and all discussions and questions around it are certainly newsworthy and it's in the public's right to know. Does the fact that this man is a former city official still make him a current public person? Can you ever stop being a public person? And will this matter in terms of us removing the comments, that in our view were not threatening or libelous?

Tough day today.


Anne Sofie said...

Why did you publish the woman's details? I'm not critizing, just interested. Here in Sweden she would have been called "a 42 year old woman" or "a 42 year old grandmother". Details of her past would probably have been published, but not her name, nor her address.

Here names are published only when the crime is somewhat exceptional: the man who stabbed Sweden's minister of foreign affairs, a couple of child murderers, a preacher who killed or had other people kill his two wives (one after another, he wasn't a polygamist)... and now the full details of the American women "Jihad Jane", who was arrested in the U.S. for planning to kill a Swedish artist. (The names of the seven men in Ireland arrested for the same reason are still not published.) And I really cannot see any reason for giving the name of "Jihad Jane".

Vickan said...

Here, everyone who gets arrested has their names published. We run a daily "police blotter" just with everyone's arrest from each town.

It is considered in the public's best interest to print these things so that you know whether you live next door to a convicted sex offender or someone who just threatened someone else with a knife.

Where the system breaks down, perhaps, is that if someone gets cleared of all charges (which is rare) newspapers rarely print stories to that effect - unless it's a trial and they find the defendant not guilty.

Anne Sofie Norlander said...

When I lived in Britain for a short while, many years ago, the British papers did the same, and probably for the same reasons, but... to me it is awkward. Even convicts should have a second chance.

Vickan said...

Yes, they can get a second chance, but most don't deserve it.

To me, if you get arrested, you need to take responsibility for your actions and not be able to hide behind anynymity.

We've published names of people we knew in the paper, even, and they thanked us for it later. It made them step up and become better persons and say "I'll never do that again."

And don't even get me started on how bad I think the Swedish justice system is. Cops and prosecutors in Sweden are chickens when it comes to arresting and convicting rapists, woman beaters and drug dealers.

The criminals would never get away with her what they get away with in Sweden.

Is there even such a thing as a restraining order in Sweden? And if so, does anyone ever get convicted for violating one?

It's all about how "he had such a difficult childhood" and "he really is a nice guy when he isn't drinking."

All BS to me. Throw them in jail and let them rot.

Vickan said...

Post above should say "get away with HERE" not "her"