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Ask away

January 24, 2008 - Jennifer Houtman
It's not uncommon for someone to call and ask that we keep their name out of the daily police blotter.

The conversation usually goes something like this:

"I was pulled over for DUI but I don't want my name in the newspaper," the caller says. "If you print it, I'll sue you."

"I'm sorry," I say, "But that information is public record. We print everyone's name, no exceptions, and our right to print the information is protected under Ohio law."

The conversation usually ends quickly after that.

The policy of our newspaper - and most newspapers - is to run arrest reports, incident reports and other public information generated by local law enforcement each day. As the community's newspaper of record, we print the information as part of our daily report and it's information considered public record under Ohio law. Not everyone agrees with our right to print the information, they see it as an invasion of privacy. But we think it's information our readers want and expect. It's also helpful for people to see what incidents are reported to police and where they occur. People can see what's happening in their neighborhoods. It gives them the information they need to stay safe and take action, if necessary.

Sometimes people have accused the newspaper of picking and choosing the names that appear there. That just isn't the case. We don't give anyone special treatment for any reason.

Why then might someone's arrest or infraction fail to appear? Sometimes it's human error. Over the years we've missed a report or two. But considering the volume of reports we comb through day in and day out, that's not unusual. And the origin of the report matters. We pick up reports from the Marietta Police Department and Washington County Sheriff's Office every day. Reports from the Ohio Highway Patrol, Belpre police and other outlining departments don't get published as regularly. But we're working on that.

On a lighter note, I got a call this week from Lilli Treadway who works at Regional Collection Services on Pike Street. It was Tuesday morning, the morning we got all of the snow, and cars had left tire tracks in the shape of two hearts out in the parking lot. Treadway and her co-workers thought the hearts were "really cool" and with it being just a few weeks before Valentines Day, she wanted to see if it was a picture we'd like to run in the newspaper.

Our photographer had another assignment and couldn't get there, so she submitted the photo she took with her her cellphone camera. We didn't run the picture in the newspaper, but I thought it would be nice to include the picture here.

Not a day goes by that I don't get a phone call from someone wanting us to come take a picture of something. Sometimes it makes sense for us to send someone over. But with a small staff, and just one full-time photographer, there's a chance we might ask that you take the photo and submit it to us. We hope you will.

It's natural for someone to call us. We are, after all, the local newspaper and printing lots of local pictures is a big part of what we do. But sometimes, the request for pictures is a stretch. Here's an example - during the summer, lots of people want us to take pictures of their vegetables. Sometimes the vegetables are oddly shaped, sometimes they are very large, sometimes they look familiar, like a celebrity or a dead president. This is the kind of picture we'd probably ask the caller to take and then submit to the newspaper. I can't promise that we'll print all of them, but we'll definitely consider it. What doesn't make it into the printed paper might still make it online.

"Two hearts" is a good example of that. If you have an interesting photo, send it my way.


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