Many news outlets report on crime. Some even make regular trips to police stations to check on reports. The Shop Talk panelists were asked the question: how do you handle it when one of your own reporters is arrested?
The general consensus is that it’s best to be transparent, especially for serious crimes. But what if the arrest is for a crime you don’t normally report on, for example, driving with a suspended license? Do you still feel an obligation to report it to the public?
Panelist Jasmine Crighton said it’s still best to err on the side of transparency. She said it looks like a cover-up if the competition writes a story about one of your reporters being arrested and you wrote nothing.
Crighton said her broadcasting students recently had to report on one of their former News3 colleagues -- a former anchor -- who was arrested as part of a larger drug bust in Macomb. She said at the end of the story they mentioned he previously anchored for the station.
Panelist Rich Moreno feels news outlets are inconsistent on the issue, Moreno said he once worked for a newspaper that wrote a story about one of its reporters being arrested for DUI, even though it did not normally write such stories. A few years later the publisher was arrested for the same offense yet no story was done.
News outlets will generally report on an arrest if the accused person is considered a public figure. Panelist Rich Egger questioned whether reporters fit that description. Crighton feels TV anchors and reporters qualify because audiences often feel they know those people – TV journalists come into their homes each night.
Moreno felt newspaper reporters generally are not considered public figures. He said many times readers don’t pay attention to the byline of the person whose story they’re reading.