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Report to our readers: "Drug Busts, Drunk Drivers and Deadlines"

Posted: Mon, Oct 7, 2013 9:02 AM
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It's been a busy time recently for area law enforcement agencies.  That has also made it a busy time for decorahnews.com. 

Several readers have been in conversation with us about the news stories we have posted about people arrested on drug charges or drunk driving charges, suggesting that it would have been better if we hadn't posted these news stories.

Here's our policy at decorahnews.com--if we learn about an arrest from local police, we will post a news story about it.  We do NOT withhold information from the public because the person arrested is "a good person" or a friend or a powerful local resident.  If the Decorah Police or Winneshiek County's Sheriff's Department issues a news release, we relay that information to the public.

We're not doing this because we're trying to embarrass anyone, or because we don't like them, or because we're bad people.  We're doing it because we're news reporters and that's our job.

One reader in particular asked a good question, though--why does it seem like the names of only some of the people who get arrested on drunk driving charges or drug charges make it into the news?

We talked with local law enforcement officials about that question and have been told they ask how important the information is when making a decision about whether to issue a news release.  If someone gets pulled over to the side of the road and is charged with drunk driving, police probably won't issue a news release.  If someone runs off the road, a news release gets issued.  If someone is caught with two marijuana cigarettes, their names might not be put in a news release.  If there's an apartment with four people with a wide variety of drugs, that will make the news.

But, to repeat, our policy at decorahnews.com is pretty simple--If police issue a news release, we run a news story.

Finally, a word about the enforcement of the laws involving drugs and alcohol.  We all support those laws--in the abstract.  But when someone we know gets arrested, we say, "Don't the police have something better to do?"

That's the wrong reaction.  The reason there is a drug and alcohol problem in this area is because we excuse such behavior.  Instead of getting help for our friend, we criticize the police or the news media.  "Don't you have anything better to do?" we ask.  Actually, news reporters and police officers learn over time that they will get grief because of these arrests.  We do what we do because it's our job.  It's time for the public to do its job, too--helping the people involved in these arrests to kick their habits.

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