It is often said that watching or reading the news of the day can be a depressing experience because the majority of it is negative. The Morgan County News is usually an exception to this perception of the media. For the most part, the pages of this newspaper are filled with positive stories about the events occurring in the county; celebrations of birthdays, anniversaries, academic and athletic achievements, and many reports of people doing good and bettering the community.
However, as a newspaper for the community, we do have the responsibility to report all of the news, good and bad. When stories that are less than positive arise, we strive to bring the facts to light that we believe are relevant and newsworthy for our readers. The bad news is, fortunately, rare.
In last week’s edition of The Morgan County News, the story printed on the front page is an example of one of the occasions when a story of a negative nature came to light and we felt it should be covered. The information for the article was provided by the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department and by the Morgan County Attorney. In this case, the individual named in the article had been charged of burglarizing homes in Morgan County. Their position as a part-time employee of the school district working with children also influenced our decision to publish on the front page.
After delivery of the newspaper last Friday, the week that has followed has been a difficult one at the newspaper office. Some family members and friends of the named person in the paper’s story approached us to loudly voice their displeasure at our decision to run this article, particularly on the front page. (As an example, see Letter to the Editor on this page.) Their complaints escalated to the point where threats were made towards the staff of the newspaper. Of course, this caused concern and employees feared returning to work.
We always welcome feedback from our readers, positive or negative and we understand that it is a difficult situation when a loved one or even a close acquaintance is portrayed in a negative way because they have been charged with a crime. It affects not only their family and friends, but also has an impact on the community at large.
I want to clarify for our readers that when it is reported that someone is charged and arrested for a crime, it does not mean that they have been convicted. Everyone who is charged with a crime is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. That is why we follow stories such as this one until they reach a conclusion, whether the result is a conviction or an acquittal.
The complaints aired about the article were that we had misstated facts, and that we had publically embarrassed a family in the community for the sake of sensationalism. As a follow up to that concern, I want to report that since the publishing of our last paper, the person charged in the article plead guilty to two felony charges; burglary and possession of a controlled substance. That information is reported in this newspaper as a follow-up to the initial report of charges filed and an arrest made. We believe that this information is relevant and newsworthy.
I want to assure you that we don’t find any pleasure in reporting bad news, especially when it is news that will surely have an impact on individuals. It is our responsibility as to cover the news of Morgan County, whether that be positive or negative. The commitment I give to our readers is that we will cover all the news of the county and will work to ensure that we get the facts accurate with no bias. We continually strive for accuracy and we always weigh a story’s impact on the community before we publish it.
We appreciate your involvement in the newspaper, your continued feedback, and the support of your hometown news.
Anne & Don Anderson
The Morgan County News