Originally published Oct. 15, 2013
I respect the opinions of those who have voiced their disagreement with The Miami Student’s recent policy change. However, a number of the arguments mistake the motivation behind our decision to remove names from the Police Beat.
It is not our publications duty to protect or punish the public, nor is it to deter crime. The motivation behind the policy change is rooted in ethics based on the university environment in which we live, not legality.
Our intention is not to spare students embarrassment. They are adults who must pay for their actions, and the public and university legal systems assure that they do.
That being said, Miami University is a place where students come to start their lives. They are still young adults, and mistakes are common. Many of the incidents published in the Police Beat are first-time offenses in which the charges are dropped. Although the legal system forgives these mistakes, The Miami Student does not. Once your name goes online with publication, it’s out there forever. In the past this was not the case. Technology has made this discussion pertinent. Tradition must be re-evaluated as the world around us changes.
Journalism has an obligation to the truth. With or without names, the Police Beat fails this obligation. It relies on information presented by a single source, a police officer’s ten-minute encounter with an individual. By nature, they are one-sided. They provide no follow-up, no outside perspective or investigation. They lack the integrity of a balanced news story.
Honestly speaking, the anecdotal clips have served as an entertainment installment in The Miami Student. PoliceBeats may have a valid function of asserting journalists’ right to publish information already in the public domain, but they have more notably serviced the prurient interest of the campus. It is my intent to redirect this service to provide the community with a sense of the type and number of violations occurring, not to offer them names of offenders they may need to avoid or stigmatize.
We maintain the right to publish information in the public domain, but when an underage student has been caught holding a beer outside a bar in a community that flourishes economically due to this behavior, we will not participate in tarnishing that student’s reputation. Every minor alcohol infraction on High Street does not warrant newspaper resources to further investigate, which is what any story singling out a student should demand. The Miami Student will establish criteria to determine which infractions warrant full coverage in spite of any discomfort it may cause an individual or their family. We have faced disgruntled and plaintive requests to omit names in the past, but they are not responsible for the policy change. Rather, it is a general perception among The Miami Student staff that the community and our readership is not best served by publishing names of offenders unless the crime rises to a level that warrants thorough reporting.