Newspapers sometimes walk a thin line between serving their readers’ interests and considering the feelings of victims and their families. The recent murder of Quayshawn Jordan brought the tension between service and sympathy to the fore.
Jordan, 21, was shot to death on Chase Street in Anderson. Police have obtained a warrant for the arrest of his cousin, De’Auntaye White, 18, of Anderson. As of Friday, White was still at large.
When The Herald Bulletin initially learned of Jordan’s death, our reporter checked (as we do in all such cases) to determine whether he had ever been arrested. We discovered several run-ins with the law over the past few years, including arrests on suspicion of criminal activity involving drugs, battery and guns.
The reporter and editors then had to make a decision about whether to use his criminal history in our reporting about his shooting death.
On the one hand, we knew that inclusion of his criminal history would cause some readers to regard the newspaper as insensitive and would likely cause additional emotional trauma for the family. We took both of these considerations very seriously.
On the other hand, our readers trust us to report all of the background — good and bad — that is pertinent to the news article. So, that left the question of whether the shooting victim’s criminal history was pertinent to a news article about his death.
We concluded that it was pertinent, given that the criminal history was lengthy and recent and the charges against him strongly suggested he had been involved in dangerous, nefarious activities.
We did, though, decide to place the information that specifically dealt with his criminal history in a sidebar to the main article about his death. This, we hoped, would create a degree of separation between the two topics, since we did not have an indication of whether his death and his criminal history were directly related.