If police have issued an arrest warrant for a 19-year-old man, would you publish that information along with the charges and the man’s name? This would be part of a bigger story which includes juveniles who are not named. It was a shooting and theft.

Terri House, Publisher

Pagosa Springs Sun, 457 Lewis St., P.O. Box 9, Pagosa Springs, Colorado 81147, 970-264-2100 ext. 30, www.pagosasun.com

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Does Police Department want the public’s help to locate the suspect?

Marcus Wilson

Town News, Moline, Illinois

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We publish what the law allows; it’s a matter of public record.

New York used to be one of two states that considered 16-year-olds as adults under the law. Last year, Raise the Age legislation was passed so that 16-year-olds are now treated as juveniles (and their names are withheld). Next year, this will apply to 17-year-olds as well.

This is something we’ve long advocated for on our editorial page.

Melissa Hale-Spencer, editor

The Altamont Enterprise & Albany County Post, Altamont, New York, 518-861-5005

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We do what law allows. Here, an 18-year-old would be named. Younger persons would not. 

Thomas V. Ward, publisher

The Valley Breeze, 6 Blackstone Valley Place, Suite #204, Lincoln, Rode Island 02865, 401-334-9555, ext. 123

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19-year-old wanted for armed robbery? Running the name and charges would be a public service announcement.

Bill Reader

Ohio University, Athens, Ohio

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It is alleged that three boys stole guns.

The two juveniles played a variation of Russian roulette. It is alleged the gun was first pointed at one boy’s head and did not go off when the trigger was pulled. The second trigger pull went off, into the boy’s leg (the other juvenile shot him). 

The 19-year-old was in proximity to the shooting and was allegedly involved in the theft of the guns and currently has a warrant issued for his arrest on two counts of first-degree criminal trespass. 

The father is accusing us of ruining the boy’s life. He said the boy has not been arrested. He is requesting a redaction “or there will be legal consequences.”

I told him that if the arrest warrant is dropped, we will run an article saying that. He said that we have already ruined his chances of getting a job by printing his name.

Hope that additional information helps.

Terri House, Publisher

Pagosa Springs Sun, 457 Lewis St., P.O. Box 9, Pagosa Springs, Colorado 81147, 970-264-2100 ext. 30, www.pagosasun.com

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My first question:

You wrote that he is accused of being part of the theft of the gun.

But the charge is for trespass. That’s different and suggests that the police don’t have evidence that he helped steal the gun, only that he was there.

Do you know more about his connection to the crime? And why trespass is the only charge?

That might help you decide whether he is worth including in the story.

But, back to what the father said...

There is an arrest warrant — but the son has not been arrested.

Is the father saying the son will not turn himself in?

Because at that point, he will have been arrested.

That’s not the most important detail, though. The arrest warrant means there are charges against him.

In my newsroom, that’s the threshold we seek — someone isn’t just suspected of a crime; the person is charged with the crime.

That’s news and the information is public.

I don’t know of any state that treats a 19-year-old as a child in the legal system, worth hiding a case from public knowledge.

If what happened is newsworthy (it sounds like it to me), and you are fair in your reporting, and will follow up with other developments in the case, you are on solid ground.

It’s important to say in the story, though, that the 19-year-old’s charge is only for being somewhere unauthorized, not for anything related to the gun possession or use.

News is often uncomfortable for someone.

If each person who wasn’t comfortable was able to stay out of the newspaper upon request, it wouldn’t be much of a newspaper.

Andy Schotz, News editor

The Herald-Mail, Hagerstown, Md.

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I agree. Seems to me like the father is angry and frustrated. He might think he has a cause of action to sue you, but I sure don’t see any and I imagine a lawyer would tell him he has none.

I would politely but firmly tell him that this is news and that you won’t back down from reporting the truth.

Dan Robrish, Editor

The Elizabethtown Advocate, 9 S. Market St. / P.O. Box 547, Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania 17022, 717-481-7314

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This is news, based on an official police report.

Print the name. The father is understandably upset, but he shouldn’t blame the messenger. It happens a lot, but we can’t allow people to determine what names are published.

Print the name and the fact that police have issued an arrest warrant.

Tom Lawrence, columnist

Prairie Perspective, Sioux Falls, South Daktota

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I would publish the information on the 19-year-old. If juveniles are involved, then they can be mentioned by their ages and sex but not names. 

Father doesn't have a case if law enforcement released the information. If the boy is 19, then he is an adult, and the father can bluff all he wants. The father can't demand a retraction because he doesn't have guardianship over the boy. The boy would have to bring any charges, which he probably wouldn't do because there's no case.  I had a few minor instances over the years regarding teenagers and arrests, and when the parent vented and wanted to talk specifics, I asked the parent if he had permission from his teen to talk to me.

Steve Ranson, Editor Emeritus -- Lahontan Valley News

Fallon, Nevada

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Cut and dry. Arrest warrant is the same as writing about an arrest. Using the father's argument, no one could write about a manhunt in their area as only an arrest warrant has been issued.

Don't sweat the call about ruining someone's life. He has no standing. That's part of your job and as long as you're factual and act in good faith you have nothing to feel bad about. 

However, there is a responsibility to follow the case all the way through, something you noted in your exchange. 

If you really want to take this as a learning opportunity for readers and provide a bit of cover if this turns into a political issue locally, I'd write a column about why you report on criminal incidents. 

You'd be surprised at how little understanding folks have about the entire process and a bit of information sometimes goes a long way.  

Adam Strunk, Managing Editor

Newton Now, Newton, Kansas

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In any major case, we would publish the name of the wanted suspect and the juveniles involved.

Roger Harnack, regional publisher

Spokane, Washington

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