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I'm sorry you saw the story as a hatchet job. To be clear, our reporter sought out the accuser for his story because so many people had and continue to have questions about the accuser's story. We tried to lay it out for readers to decide for themselves. We'd certainly want to give Mr. Ratcliff this same opportunity.In terms of the ability to have a fair trial, newspaper coverage rarely makes a difference in this regard. The standard is whether potential jurors can impartially weigh the evidence presented to them during a trial. It's not that they be totally ignorant of a case.
I'm glad to read that you would "consider" printing an interview with the former sheriff. After the hatchet job the Advocate did on him by printing the interview with the so-called victim in the case, though, I doubt if Mr. Ratcliff would consider talking to your paper. I was stunned by the interview you printed BEFORE trial that could only inflame the public from which a jury will be chosen. Quite frankly, I think that if I were in jail under circumstances similar to the so-called victim in this case, I might consider making similar claims, too. Nothing ventured, nothing gained and I just might end up trashing the reputation of a man and getting myself out of a bad legal jam by jamming up somebody else. If the "victim" was telling the truth about the assault, why didn't he report it at the time? Was he just waiting until he needed a tale?
Students are told everyday to change or rearrange clothing to accommodate school rules. The school did not overact. The students and parents did when they refused to accept instructions from school authorities. Public schools are not playgrounds. The rules are there to protect everyone including silly little girls who want to wear clothing that could get them hurt. The worse problem with picturing the students are "copy cats". I think kids today will do almost anything to be on camera. For example, look at the myriad of videos on the internet.
I believe that there is two sides to every story!
I myself always have been one to want to hear both sides to every story,regardless of what it's about.I say YES to hearing both sides.
Rock chalk back at you. I love tournament time. KU all the way.
This has nothing to do with your post, and to be honest I didn't even read it. I just wanted to say... Rock Chalk Jayhawk!!KU is ready for a long tournament run.
Thanks, Roger. You're certainly right that a headline should capture readers' attention. And I agree with you that our aim is to prompt a community conversation. I recall hearing design consultant Tim Harrower advise us to resist editing the paper for the 10 percent of readers -- he described them as blue-haired ladies -- who are going to be complain about whatever you do.Our tendency is to listen too much to the gripers because they're the ones who speak up the most. Our instinct as journalists is to listen to everyone, but we also have to weigh the gripers' comments against the majority of readers -- and our nonreaders we're trying to reach -- and have the experience to know the difference. If we put out a newspaper so safe that no one ever complains, it also will be so dull and irrelevant that no one reads it.Again, that's not to suggest readers' comments on this subject or any other aren't valuable and instructive. The discussion is healthy.
Honestly, I don't see anything wrong with your coverage. You presented both sides if a fair and honest manner. I believe that the negative comments regarding the picture are overreactions. Seriously, if you ask a family to take a picture for the newspaper, what else are they going to do? Frown? Make a mean face? Especially if they're trying to give you their side of the story. Are you suppose to ask them not to smile? Maybe you could've Photo Shopped a few evil glares on the children. What other response is this family going to give you? Other than smiling faces?I don't see anything wrong with the headline either. If I can remember a thing or two from a journalism class I took in college, a headline is suppose to grab the readers attention, right? And it did. You struck a nerve with some people, and that's not always a bad thing. And I read quite a few of the VA blogs.....your headline could've been "Family Says School Overreacted" and there would've been people complaining about that as well. The original headline had some spice....and that's what this town needs now and then.I will admit that a few bloggers "demanding answers" from you was quite intriguing.....as if you started an actual war or something. You covered a story....both sides of it....and nobody has the whole story yet, including the police or school administrators.
That's certainly a different mix, and I agree that it would be interesting to see the different reaction.
Thanks, Mary Ann, for your thoughtful comments. It would be interesting to see what the reaction would have been if the people in the photo had a serious expression and the headline was more straight such as: "Family says school overreacted."
Hello Chris,You ask another question, "Should suspects get their say, photo in the newspaper?" Personally, I say sure, as long as it's well done. And that's where the opinion comes in. Putting various grinning suspects on the front page and asking if they are child molestors, robbers, or petty thieves doesn't support the common good of our community, in my opinion. It does seem to belittle the problems they are allegedly accused of, such as kicking in windows, taking advantage of minors, and harrassing shop owners. Without the story, I think the picture has some cute girls, but then you read what they allegedly did, and combined with the headline, and the totality is provoking.Even if they are only accused of the crimes, not convicted, the victim(s) also come into play, as well as the larger community for which the Advocate as media sets some example.Yet, you're the editor, and it's your call. The VA asked, "Does this look like a gang?" and received a hearty response as you well know. I think the sassy headline combined with the information in the story was combustible, and the picture didn't help. I'd like to see coverage in the VA that didn't even hint at supporting those who commit violence in schools. This story left me wondering about oversight at the VA.