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A call for help: Round 2

Ryan Hoffman
rhoffman@citizentelegram.com

Those of you who also read the Post Independent likely noticed a change in how the paper reports crime in its weekly crime briefs, which also occasionally appear in this paper — look over to page three if I’ve already lost you.

The names of many of the arrested no longer appear. The decision, as Post Independent Editor Randy Essex explained, boiled down to the conclusion that it is unfair to name people without following their case through the criminal justice system. Since offering the explanation, the decision sparked some debate — particularly on Facebook — about whether it was right or wrong.

I fall in the camp that believes it was the right decision. I’m not going to linger on why I think it was right; Randy already explained why in a much more coherent manner than I ever could.

You’ll notice the names do not appear in the infrequent Rifle crime blotter also on page three this week. While that one fact is now consistent, there is a huge difference between the policies at the two papers, mainly that the Post has a policy.

Since taking this position in April, the Rifle crime blotter, which contains misdemeanors reported by the Rifle Police Department, has appeared in the paper three times. The weekly crime briefs that run in the Post have appeared a similar number of times. The infrequency is due to several reasons, largely dealing with when reports are available in the case of the local crime blotter, but the short answer is I’ve used my judgment. And unlike the Post, that has not involved clear guidelines.

Truth be told, I was going to drop the local crime blotter all together. Felonies are included in the Post’s weekly crime briefs, and given the fact that local misdemeanor reports are not always immediately available, the blotter seemed like a feature with the scale tipping more towards effort, especially for the police department personnel compiling the information, than news value.

That decision was nearly final when I heard from several readers wanting to know what happened to the local crime report. I explained we run them when we have them, but that was likely coming to an end. They politely pleaded with me to keep it, and I listened.

I do not believe the blotter is completely void of value. Trends, such as a steady number of juveniles cited for marijuana possession, can be gleaned from these reports, when they are reported consistently.

But it is blindingly evident that there needs to be some clear and consistent guidelines, not only for reporting crime, but for other facets of the paper as well.

Those guidelines are coming, but as I did in my first column, I am asking you for input (see the contact information at the bottom) on … well, everything. And I mean everything.

How many of you enjoy the puzzles that appear every week? Would you be crushed if those disappeared?

What areas are lacking in coverage? Do you despise reading this column on a weekly basis?

The limited feedback I’ve heard in my first three months has been mostly positive. While that is comforting, to a degree, there is so much room for improvement and growth that anything remotely resembling complacency would be insane. Let’s keep the sanity.

Ryan Hoffman is editor of The Citizen Telegram. He can be reached at 970-685-2103 or rhoffman@citizentelegram.com.


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