Whitesburg KY

What court records should be printed

To the editor:

I wish to express an opinion that I hold that I am certain is shared by hundreds of citizens in our region as well as many who work in our judicial system and local law enforcement pertaining to a topic that has unfortunately become common practice for several small town newspapers in this area over the past few years.

This is the redundant habit of printing the entire public (court) record in the newspaper.

First, allow me to commend as well as express my personal gratitude to the editorial staff at The Mountain Eagle for adhering to journalistic ethics not to mention good common sense by refusing to participate in this asinine behavior.

Several other papers in our region print the entire record.

In my opinion this borders on defamation in cases too numerous to count. Even though papers may get away with this legally simply because it is a matter of public record, this practice is unethical to say the least.

Though I will be the first to agree that a certain faction of people are interested in the personal affairs of others, I would dare say that a larger number of citizens disapprove, have even been negatively affected or have had friends or family members that have suffered needlessly because of it.

Some examples of the harm that can be inflicted by printing civil cases are the countless examples of couples who have filed for divorce and then changed their mind and reconciled only to be the subject of gossip due to “the press” meddling in personal affairs that are not news.

There are many instances where parents may have filed for divorce and not yet talked with their children only to have the kids go to school to learn from their classmates that their parents are having problems thanks to their local newspaper that’s sole purpose should be to serve and inform the community, not slander it’s private citizens.

Oftentimes a simple divorce case will list the respondent as a defendant and for many in the general public that do not understand legal jargon this is misinterpreted as a domestic violence case or criminal charge.

In the criminal cases that are listed in the public record especially the nonviolent misdemeanor cases such as traffic offenses, these charges take up to three weeks before being listed on the computer in the local clerk’s office. Often these charges are amended or even dismissed following an investigation by officers or being heard by the court. I think all would agree that a person is innocent until proven guilty and by printing the initial charges or citations this can be especially detrimental in instances where one required to have a good driving record to maintain employment.

Certainly the public has the right to be aware of serious cases where a potential sex offender, rapist, murderer or drug dealer may be on the loose or living in their neighborhood.

Certainly when police call for assistance from the public for leads in a case it is the duty of local media to make folks aware.

However it is none of my business if my neighbor gets a citation for driving five miles over the speed limit or is involved in a custody dispute with their ex.

As far as the newspaper is concerned it is a waste of space that could be filled with an informative article.

It is my wish to encourage others, especially local business owners and advertisers, who share my opinion or have voiced similar opinions to me over the past several years to express their thoughts on this subject to their local hometown newspapers as well as the Kentucky Press Association.

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