Y’all…. Indulge me for a moment. I need an opinion. I want your honest opinion… but I don’t want to treat you like a toddler by laying out a bunch of irrelevant malarkey intended to sway your opinion.
This publication has existed for well over 5 years. I’ve struggled to provide good, relevant content in a timely manner for the citizens of South Mississippi County. You deserve it. The failure, that’s on me and my ineffectiveness in explaining the concept of citizen journalism or user-submitted content.
Things have changed somewhat in the region and now I have a flood of content. We have been openly acknowledged by multiple governmental agencies as an established media outlet. I can now write a proper FOIA request faster than I can sign my own name. BUT, I also have a conscience and a moral foundation that fully understands the unprecedented, instant impact that web-based mass media has in these final days of waiting and waiting for time-sensitive information via ink-on-paper. (Youre rambling again, delete some of that) (No... It's filler)
Long story just a bit longer… A gifted writer/friend type person, recently made a comment stating that he/she would be more than willing to contribute articles to SouthMissCo IF we would lay-off the crime and arrest reports. Simply put, the writer didn’t want to be associated with the bulk of the recent content that had been published. And, lawdy knows I don’t blame ‘em. The fact of the matter is and much to the chagrin of our beloved local law enforcement team… we go with what we get.
Here is my semi-moral dilemma.
The data/info flood gates are wide open for reporting arrests and criminal charges. We publish these reports on a selective basis giving priority to harmful behavior, sexual predators, public safety and the occasional “Yeah, I did it” confessions. If you get busted for walking home with a little weed? I don’t know. Now, what if! A high-profile individual is busted for …let’s say, hmm… DUI? Within 10 minutes of being booked, everyone in the county will have this person’s mug shot displayed on their smartphone, shared by messenger, twitted on twitter into the twit-o-sphere... all displayed without the benefit of showing the alleged charges. Don’t deny it. It’s common. I do it. Everyone has that certain friend. I’m blessed with several.
Back to that high-profile, hard working person arrested for DUI. When we receive the arrest report, we see all of the details. Mug shot, arrest summary, bond, and a court date. Less than an hour later, it’s published for all the world to see. And not seen by just a select few subscribers or pawpaw wrapping his latest catch. It’s really out there. It’s public information. Then, a week or so later when all of the charges are thrown out, we find our wrongfully accused hard-working, high profile, community involved individual is not only out of a job but ostracized by the community. Publicly humiliated.
Who issues that report? Who clears the persons name that has been dragged through the mud like a channel cat hoping for a nail through the head rather than any more humiliation?
Abbott Joseph "A. J." Liebling, a once-famous writer for the New Yorker is often credited with the quote: “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”
Oh well. I guess I lied. I do want your opinion, but I slipped up and pitched in a bunch of sway-worthy dialogue. If you’ve read to this point… I’ll value your opinion just a bit more than the headline junkies.
Where do you want this publication to go?