Monday, December 11, 2006

Be an editor


Friday night, Julie Wallace, our new assistant managing editor, was editing stories when she swiveled around in her chair and said to me, "Patti, did you see this Off-the-Beat item? The one about the girl standing in the cold? I think you oughta take a look at it."
Off-the-Beat is a column that we run Saturdays in the print edition of The Chronicle. It's a spot where reporters can tell readers about the fun, funny or bizarre things they ran across during their week covering the mean streets of Lorain County.
Well, it seems some of those streets are a little meaner than others for what Julie wanted me to see was the report of a 15-year-old girl made to stand out in the cold wearing a reindeer nose and antlers AND a placard around her neck that said, "I'm a liar."
The teen told our reporter (her quote was in the story), "I'm embarassed. I want to go in the house. I need to stop lying and behave myself."
Her father told our reporter (his quote also was in the story), "I want the attention for people to see her so maybe next time she'll know better."
Well, we decided not to run it.
We really didn't see the news value of heaping more humiliation on an already humiliated teenage girl. It just didn't feel right to us.
What do you think?
Is it news? Would you have run the story? The picture?
And, why or why not?

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

No it is not news and the father should be arrested for what he did!!!!
What a creep, this is child abuse!!!

Kelly Boyer Sagert said...

No, I would not have run this story and I'm glad that you didn't. The fact that she's a minor plays a huge role in that answer.

Not too long ago, I read an article about how Puritans and other religious groups of that era (and other eras, too, actually) believed that humiliation was one of the core components of punishment and this philosophy is clearly reflected here.

I suspect that mindset isn't completed divorced from modern day thinking, as I read stories about convicted drunk drivers having license plates that identify their conviction and other similar stories.

Anonymous said...

Not newsworthy, but after reading the teen's comments, it sounds like it may have had an impact. Public humiliation isn't something that I would inflict on my children, but if this father felt that he needed to resort to such drastic measures, I am sure there is more to the story.

Anonymous said...

I think that the Chronicle should've written a story on the father of the girl and if he has sone things like this in the past, and making that poor girl stand out there what a jerk! Im 10 and i know that a normal parent would never do something like this and that there is just something wrong with hat parent.

HeneryHawk said...

I'd like to add to this that I've seen JUDGES hand down sentences to people guilty of some minor crime. Since jail time is too harsh, and letting them off doesn't get the message across, they sentence them to a few hours of holding the sign.

Not too long ago, a woman was sentenced to spend the night in a Cleveland MetroPark for dumping a litter of kittens in the park on a cold night. Well, when she was sentenced, there was snow on the ground, but she was put out there, with Cleveland Police guarding her, for about 4-5 hours, give or take. The judge didn't make her spend the whole night because of the temps, but she did get the message.

Hopefully, the daughter got the message, BEFORE the lying escalated into something more serious. Hey, at least the father is involved, and wants his child to walk the straight and narrow. Gotta give him that much credit.

Kelly Boyer Sagert said...

Henery . . . those were the types of legal decisions that I was trying to remember when I said this: "I suspect that mindset isn't completed divorced from modern day thinking, as I read stories about convicted drunk drivers having license plates that identify their conviction and other similar stories."

Thanks for jogging my memory!

Back to the original question posted: to me, if a judge hands down an offbeat sentence of this type for a crime to an adult, I would probably consider that a topic for a newspaper.

When it's a matter between parent and child and the person being punished is therefore a minor, I would not (if I were the editor!) put this photo in the newspaper. I am not, in any way, commenting about whether I think the father was right or wrong, or somewhere in between -- just that I wouldn't publish that photo.

Patti Ewald said...

Although grown-up vs. child is absolutely the major issue, there is another pretty important piece to this. The grown-up in court was given the opportunity to plead her case, a chance to prove her innocence.
We all know that doesn't always happen when the judge and jury is your father.

Kelly Boyer Sagert said...

Thanks for letting us play editor, Patti!

Patti Ewald said...

Hey, thanks for playing! I could use you guys more often.
Nothing particularly sticky happened today -- but it often does. I can't wait to have you weigh in on the next newsroom dilemma.
Please let me know if you hear about anything that we should be covering or that would make a good news story. I need more troops on the front line! haha
By the way, if any of you flooded-out Lorain residents want to talk to us, please let me know. We want to talk to people who are still displaced. It's of particular interest to me -- that's my neighborhood!

Patti Ewald said...

By the way, if you want to e-mail news tips or story ideas to me (instead of posting them here), please e-mail to pewald@chroniclet.com. Thanks.

Kelly Boyer Sagert said...

Thanks for providing the email address. If I see something that might interest you, I'll email.