Editorial – Communication and the importance of being a P.I.T.A..
Bare with me while I give some context to editorial.
Yesterday, my daughter and I went for a walk downtown. Was great to get out and watch the sun set.
Yes, the “sun.”
Something we all have been missing.
But as we were downtown, we noticed police converge near the corner of King Street, just west of George Street.
There were about three cruisers, with lights on – one was on the opposite side of the road which indicated it wasn’t a “normal” call.
One person was up against the wall and soon was placed in handcuffs.
We only saw one person in cuffs, but speaking to witnesses around the area, they mentioned there were two people placed in cruisers.
We carried on with our walk – it was just another day in downtown.
It didn’t appear like a robbery, so no sense bothering the local constabulary as they’d be tied up with paperwork likely for hours.
So when the release came out today, there were a number of things that shocked me.
Firstly, if two people were taken away in handcuffs, why was only one mentioned in the release?
Secondly and more importantly, it was shocking that a person who was in possession of a hatchet and chased an individual out of a business wasn’t named.
The one individual was charged with assault with a weapon, possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose, two counts of fail to comply with probation order and held for a show cause hearing.
But again, no mention of the second individual.
Being open and honest with the readers and people who have supported my work for decades is something that I strive for. Many mistakes I’ve made, but, you can’t succeed without excepting failure.
Flat out – I can be a royal pain in the derriere (P.I.T.A.).
When Cobourg Police Chief Paul VandeGraaf initiated the new policy of not releasing of suspects names from my belief it was wrong then – and it’s wrong now.
In some cases, it’s obviously warranted for domestic incidents, youths, and even minor crimes. Even if 18-year-old Johnny steals a chocolate bar – most of society can live without knowing his name. Now, if poor Johnny can’t keep his hands off the merchandise and does it numerous times which in turns costs the taxpayers thousands because of policing and prosecution, then obviously Johnny isn’t getting the message and it should be released.
But in this instance, where a suspect is charged with a weapon, charged with assaulting someone with a weapon, and two counts of fail to comply with a probation order – let’s just say it’s more than one chocolate bar.
And what about the mysterious second person arrested?
Since police have only stated one individual was arrested, it goes without saying, that’s the person in the photo. But was it?
Reaching out to Cobourg Police Communications Coordinator Lisa Munday we asked to confirm if the photo was the accused police were referring too?
“We cannot confirm this,” came the reply minutes later in a e-mail.
But again, did state there was only one charged, which would indicate, the photo was the person charged.
Alas, not all things are what they seem sometimes and in life, sometimes you have to be a P.I.T.A.
This was one of those times.
Let’s just say, a few feathers had to be ruffled and most likely Today’s Northumberland’s name or mine won’t be brought up at the dinner table this evening.
On the bright side, after e-mailing back and forth from 8:49 a.m. till 2:20 p.m. a proper release was issued.
It had the name of two people and the charges.
The person in the photo was of the second individual who was facing a charge of assault and not five charges.
Today’s Northumberland thanks the Cobourg Police for doing the right thing and issuing the names. The names of suspects should be given all the time in a press release.
But this editorial is more about how the face of media is changing and challenging at times.
Today’s Northumberland is likely the smallest media in the County. But where was the other media shouting out to release the name/s?
We aren’t owned by a chain – but we do are best to inform you, the reader.
The accountability of media is deteriorating. Most just want a sound bite or a quote and carry on. But media has to challenge government, police or whoever is needed.
Not for the sake of causing tension, not for the sake of calling someone out – but simply put because it’s the right thing to do.
If we would have accepted the original release, it would state no names and that only one person was charged.
Students graduating schools that teach journalism aren’t learning what they should. This is how the future of journalism and how you, the reader receives their information.
If you don’t ask the questions, sometimes difficult questions, you won’t get the answers the public deserves.
And sometimes one simple picture while you’re out for a walk with your daughter on the main street of your home town can take hours to get to the truth.
But for the community we serve – it was worth every minute.