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Report to our readers: Why we posted our South Winneshiek story

Posted: Wed, Feb 6, 2019 2:17 PM

The incident last summer involving students at South Winneshiek, which is now being described as a sexual assault, is a sad story for everyone involved.  That's how we knew we'd get comments from readers when we posted our story.  Basically, they want to know why we did what we did--and we're happy to explain:

1) The story is true.
This isn't a Facebook post based on "what we've heard."  Our story comes from a news release issued by the Winneshiek County Sheriff's Office, which has done its usual fine job of informing the public and local news media.  The story also comes from the actual court filing of the criminal charges.  As you can imagine, we reviewed each and every word in our story--and we stand behind its accuracy.

2) The story comes from easily accessible public records.
Anyone with access to "Iowa Courts Online," the website operated by Iowa's court system, can have access to the documents from Tuesday's court appearance.  These are NOT secret documents we used to write our story--they are public records, which means they're accessible not only to us, but to all of the public as well.

3) The story can counteract rumors that aren't true.
There's been a lot of talk in recent weeks about this situation--not all of it accurate.  Posting a factual news story--despite some ugly details--can help to depress the even more outlandish rumors about the situation.

4) The news media's job is to provide information, not to hide information.
We sometimes receive phone calls from people asking us to remove a story about an arrest or a court appearance or anything else that describes legal problems someone is having.  Our policy is pretty simple--if police send us a news release or if there's a court filing, we write a news story.  For those who would have us withhold information, where would that line be drawn?  Our goal is to treat everyone and every situation the same--and we think that's what you'd prefer.

5) About the victim
The news release from the Sheriff's Office did not mention the name of the victim.  The criminal complaint did not mention the name of the victim.  Our story did not mention the name of the victim.  If you know the victim's name, chances are it's because of the rumor mill.  Stop spreading gossip.  Start looking for concrete ways you can support the victim, who is obviously having to deal with a terrible situation.

6) Yes, this truly is a sad situation.
It's a sad situation because some young people made terrible decisions which will affect numerous lives in the future.  Our prayer is that this story can serve as a lesson that people will remember.

(Have an opinion?  E-mail us at  Unless you request otherwise, we will keep your comments private)