JOURNALISM ETHICS 101: HOW TO HANDLE A BEER BUST

On Friday night, Highland Park police busted a teen beer party at a private home. When the police arrived, most of the estimated 50 kids scattered. Two were arrested; one was cited for underage consumption.

Today’s edition of Park Cities People has the full story [no link]. It contains a item I regret. PCP made a point of noting that the young girl cited was the 18-year-old daughter of News publisher Jim Moroney.

Ironically, yesterday Tim Rogers and I carried on an intramural debate on the very same subject. Tim argued that because she is an adult under the law, her name should be published (someone had sent him the police report). I argued that children’s names shouldn’t be published until they had graduated from high school. While we were having that discussion on the second floor, where we office, the editors at PCP were making a different decision on the third floor. I can’t gainsay their decision, and obviously I can’t take it back, but I can disagree with it. We will review the newspaper’s policy later, just as yesterday we discussed D Magazine’s. Maybe they’re right and I’m wrong. We’ll see. But whether one thinks it is appropriate or not to print an 18-year-old’s name (the minors’ names weren’t published), I cannot see the appropriateness of publishing the parent’s name. It strikes me as utterly gratuitous. And in this particular case, when the parent happens to be the publisher of the city’s daily newspaper, with whom we so often compete for stories and advertising dollars, it looks to me like “gotcha” journalism. If an 18-year-old is an adult, treat her as an adult–that is, as someone responsible for her own actions. If she’s a child, treat her as a child, and leave her name out.

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