ANDERSON, Ind. — “Hi. Yes, I was hoping … you maybe … could help me with, uh, something.”
The voice through the phone was halting, nervous.
“Well, uh … you see, I did a stupid thing last night.”
She paused, and I waited.
“The cops stopped me … they stopped me, and I’d been drinking …”
“I’m sorry to hear that. Did they charge you?”
“Yeah, yeah, they did.” She sounded near tears. “And now, if my boss finds out … he might fire me.”
I hate this. I waited for the question.
“Do you have to put it in the paper – me being charged?”
I sighed. “Yes, I’m sorry, we do. We run all the DWI charges that show up on the arrest log. It wouldn’t be fair to others if we made exceptions.”
She sighed, too. “Is there any way you might miss it?”
“Not intentionally,” I replied. “Every DWI that shows up on the arrest log for Madison County, we publish.”
“Are you sure …,” she started, “I mean, couldn’t you …” her voice trailed off.
This phone conversation happened on a recent evening. I didn’t feel good about it. Perhaps she was a really good person who just made a really bad mistake. She sounded young, maybe in her late 20s. I imagined she might have kids. Perhaps she really would be fired.
So I reviewed in my mind the reasons that we publish the daily arrest log. First of all, I have to admit that part of the motivation is that people, our readers, are interested in crime. They want to know who is accused of what.
Beyond that, publication of the arrest log gives the community an idea of the volume of crime committed every day in Madison County. It’s troubling – the seemingly nonstop litany of domestic violence, assault, theft and other nastiness.
There’s the hope that the publication of the arrest log is a deterrent to at least a few people. Will the woman who called be less likely to drive drunk again because she knows an arrest would be made public? Maybe.
Being a community newspaper and a newspaper of record means The Herald Bulletin is compelled to report on court actions, arrests and other matters of public concern. We take that responsibility seriously, and that’s the primary reason we publish the arrest report.
The only way to make sure you (and I!) stay out of it is not do something that leads to an arrest.
Don’t forget to nominate people, businesses and institutions for The Herald Bulletin’s annual Best of Madison County survey. Go to www.theheraldbulletin.com and click on the Best of Madison County 2013 logo.
The nomination period closes Thursday. A week later, we’ll post the ballot with the top five nominees in each category on our website. Voting will be Jan. 31-Feb. 7. Results will be announced Feb. 28 in a special section of The Herald Bulletin.
If you don’t have access to the internet but would like to nominate or vote, contact me and I’ll help.
Editor Scott Underwood’s column appears Mondays in The Herald Bulletin. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 640-4845.