So here it on Christmas Night, and I am trying to catch up on some reading and came across this interesting tidbit. The DA in Montgomery County TX is going to share the names of people arrested in his jurisdiction on Twitter. This is not convictions mind you–its arrests.
For me, its kind of a flashback to one of my first jobs at a tiny radio station in Rockland County, NY. The news director who hired me had a quantity over quality policy. So each shift, each editor and anchor had a quota of stories they had to write. It wasn’t about the content, it wasn’t about the journalism–it was about the count. So, we pulled out press releases from the local DA about DWI indictments. Stories went something like this:
“The decision to allegedly drive drunk was a bad one for <insert name>.” We would round out with some basic facts (location of the arrest, score on breathalyzer etc) and we were one story closer to the quota.
But did it serve any kind of true journalistic or community purpose? When Kathleen Rice was elected DA in Nassau County, NY she ran on a platform of being tough on DWI. She took to the local papers with the names of those convicted of DWI.
But this is a new twist, and one that has legal bloggers asking questions. And I have to admit, as a member of the fifth estate I am too. Y
Yeah, its public information the arrests. And there are times it can be salacious–but really, is this what we are down too?
What’s next for Twitter or Foursquare or Gowalla? Red marking the location of sex offenders?
I am never one to promote prior restraint–it’s almost antithetical to being a good journalist. But in this case, there is no conviction, there is no real asset to the community–I suppose there can be some good PR for the DA–but then he can always name these people a “person of interest” because it’s the same thing.