It’s been a tough news week. We had the horrible plane crash at Fallbrook which killed the passenger, the devastating car crash in Temecula which left a child dead, and a scary call of guys in a black Mercedes at a shopping center in town waving a gun, which later was found to not be a “real” gun.
Then there were fires, city council meetings, county supervisor meetings, school board news, carnivals, plays, sports, etc.
Because of the snarky comments on Facebook after the post of the story, “Passenger dead, pilot hospitalized after vintage military plane crashes in Fallbrook flower field,” I thought it might be a good time to remind people about proper journalism and what exactly it is we do as outlined in the Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics which is the "Bible" of rules that all professional journalists follow.
Some comments were that we should take down pictures of the boys who were detained after the gun waving incident behind CVS in Fallbrook.
One lady called the office to tell us to take it down because they are minors and we don’t have permission to have their photos in the paper.
So, just to clarify, legally we don’t need permission to put a minor’s picture in the paper if we took it during a public event, especially if the minors are involved in a news event and are being detained by sheriffs after a suspected gun incident.
Other people on Facebook said we should take it down because they weren’t actually arrested. Other people said we should take it down because we were “shaming” them by showing them detained. I completely understand their emotional responses, but we were just reporting what happened. If you are involved in illegal or suspicious activity, your picture just might show up on our website too.
The commenters may all have good intentions, but it’s not proper journalism to alter or change the story or the photos and not show what actually happened.
The report that was initially called in said that people in a black Mercedes were waving a gun in public, in a shopping center parking lot in the middle of town. It was frightening because the reporting party didn’t know if it was a real gun or not.
The Sheriff's department didn’t know if it was a real gun either. So they had to follow protocol and respond to the reported incident as if it was real. That included controlling the scene, getting everyone sitting in a line on the curb and strapping their wrists.
That happened. Those were the facts. It was real. Even though the gun turned out to not be real, they had to go through the process and investigate.
They searched the car and found the gun.
There were no victims, so the sheriffs released the minors to family members. Because I watched for an hour until it was over, I was able to see how the boys reacted, how the officers treated them and how the parents reacted.
First of all, while the Facebook posters who are thinking they know best and felt sorry for the boys, I want them to know the boys were partying it up and having fun. One person posting said we were shaming the boys by posting the photos.
We weren’t attributing any emotion, shame, guilt or innocence to the situation. We were just reporting what happened, because that is what any credible news organization should do. If things would have gone differently, we would have reported that too.
Although I can’t know what they were feeling, it didn’t look as though those boys were feeling shame.
They begged people, including me, to video them and take their pictures. They wanted to be Instagram famous. One of the sheriffs told me that one of the youth detained was an up and coming rapper and wanted it to post online.
So, just because your reaction is an emotional one to the photo, that doesn’t mean it was our motive or intention to shame, blame or get “click bait” as someone else said.
We just reported the facts. We reported it as it really happened. If I would have just gone home and not reported on it, we would have been accused of “not reporting what’s going on in this town!” And someone else would ignorantly say it’s because the chamber or our advertisers control us and that’s why. It’s laughable the comments we get sometimes.
Back to the detainment, one parent tried at first to make it about race, which didn’t last long with the sheriff. The parent continued, insistent it wasn’t even a real gun.
The Sheriff just said, “Are you aware of what is going on in our country right now?” The parent conceded and took his minor home. Those boys obviously are immature. They may be smart, but they aren’t wise. Hopefully that parent took that boy home and spent time reasoning with him on how it just isn’t smart to be playing with guns, shooting at people, on public property in parking lots, in light of the shootings that have taken place across the country. If you want to play those games, do it in your backyard.
As for the Sheriff, I witnessed Officer Prickett talk to a young man in a mentoring tone, along with the guardian that came to pick him up and the boy left, smiling and thanking the officer. Officer Prickett was encouraging with him and I had the thought that it may have been a really important moment for that teen. I could have used that picture, and it would have been legal and appropriate, but I decided I didn’t want to take individual photos of the boys. It wasn’t necessary to tell the story.
Some people objected to the photo of the boy shooting the gun. But that is what the reporting person saw, as well as others. That’s why they reported it. It was the right thing to do to report it and it was the right thing for us to report on it. Just the facts, without commentary and without adjectives like dumb, dangerous and immature.
It may have been all fun and games this time, but next time someone may get hurt and that’s a story we don’t want to report, but we will, and the picture may be on the front page.