6/8/2006 1:32:00 PM News judgment questioned in indecency story
The Daily News broke new ground on Wednesday with a front page report about a Robinson man pleading guilty to a Vigo County misdemeanor charge of public indecency.
Misdemeanors encompass a broad variety of crimes, including battery, domestic violence and a host of minor offenses for which the punishment is less than a year in jail. Legally, misdemeanors are, well, minor.
If the threshold for news value now includes a misdemeanor conviction 30 miles from home, can we look forward to reports about minor offenses in Lawrenceville, Newton, Olney, Casey, Marshall, Sullivan, and Vincennes? Can we count on Daily News staff to pore over the public records for all of the surrounding counties to make sure that readers don't miss a single misdemeanor conviction that involves a Crawford County resident?
If the Daily News does not plan to cover all misdemeanor charges in the surrounding area, perhaps there is some editorial judgment that is implied but not explicit.
If the news threshold involves public safety (the sheriff is sweeping the parks), then perhaps we can expect the Daily News to broaden coverage of drunk driving convictions to the surrounding areas so that we will all know who among us is driving one-ton hunks of metal at highway speeds while in an impaired condition. That's the type of public safety issue that seems to be more of a real and present danger compared to what was reported on Wednesday.
If the news threshold involves appealing to the prurient interest of the readership, may I suggest printing divorce transcripts verbatim, a juicy sort of public record if there ever was one.
Maybe the news judgment is now a matter of giving extra points to stories that have shock value, that imply a hidden lifestyle, or that are guaranteed to have high embarrassment. I hope that is not the case, because that would be a different sort of embarrassment - an embarrassing lack of journalistic judgment.