Blogs » Your Advocate: an editor's blog » Should suspects get their say, photo in the newspaper?

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Our story Friday about the Calhoun High "gang" reflected our desire to present all sides to any story, but some readers felt we were glorifying violence in schools.

In our original front-page story Sunday, we had only the school's version of the events. Those accused wanted the opportunity to present their side of what happened. Our follow-up story today offered them that opportunity and included comments from the superintendent disputing what they had to say.

In such instances, we must trust readers' judgments. We think both stories provide considerable information upon which readers might decide for themselves how this incident started and was handled. It's not our place in a news story to judge who was right and who was wrong. We certainly will follow the cases in court and report how they are resolved.
 
Some readers seemed to take particular offense at the photo of the girls and their mother and grandmother smiling on the front page. Above that photo we asked: Does this look like a gang? Certainly, criminals cannot always be detected by their appearance. We were aiming to prompt a community conversation on the subject, not to answer the question. (Our editorial board plans to take a position on the incident in Sunday's edition, but that's separate from our news coverage.

Several readers also have suggested various follow-up angles, such as an educational piece about identifying gangs, and other questions about the case. We appreciate these ideas and will look into them.

Another reader asked where we'd draw the line with interviewing suspects. For example, would we publish an interview with Michael Ratcliff, the former sheriff accused of sexual assault on a child? The answer is we definitely would consider this of significant news value.

One smaller point mentioned is the description of this as an "exclusive interview." I would agree the phrase is overly dramatic and best left for bigger stories.
I know I haven't covered every single point raised, but we appreciate all of the comments to Friday's article and the discussion covering many sides of this issue. All of you help shape our news coverage. I also encourage you to write letters to the editor or guest columns on this or any other subject.