Editorial: Clarification of Crime Reporting Policy

As The Minaret has been keeping up with a significant streak of so-called “negative news” on campus in the past few weeks, we find it a favorable time to explain our choice of coverage.

Since a news organization often speaks as loudly with what it chooses not to cover as it does with its coverage, we would like to assert our formal policy regarding our treatment of crime on campus.

Our policy is as follows: when someone is arrested for a felony charge that affects a number of members of the university community, The Minaret will consider it news. This includes but is not limited to selling drugs and possession of weapons.

To be fair to all parties in such a situation, we will follow a formal policy of running both names and pictures, if we have them, for such arrests.

By adhering to this policy, we seek to establish a reasonable consistency that will be fair to news subjects while recognizing the need to make a distinction between newsworthy and non-newsworthy felonies.

The Minaret considers a felony that does not affect other members of the university community to be a private rather than a public matter. On the other hand, when individuals are charged with engaging in criminal behavior that we believe has an impact on our university community, we consider it our responsibility as a news organization to report it.

We do not seek to focus on negative news, yet at the same time, we feel that it would be irresponsible of us to ignore it, specifically when it affects the university community in a real way.

Last week’s editorial provided a sufficient explanation for our coverage of negative news in general; the explication of this formal policy is meant to highlight the type of negative news that we consider newsworthy.

Just as we do not consider all felonies categorically to be newsworthy, we also do not absolutely dismiss misdemeanors as private affairs. If misdemeanors sufficiently meet the criteria of newsworthy stories as taught in journalism courses at UT and elsewhere, they will be considered for publication. These eight criteria include impact, proximity, timeliness, currency, oddity, conflict, prominence and magnitude.

We consider such a consistent distinction to be compatible with responsible standards of journalism, and we seek to enrich our understanding of responsible policy through increasing dialogue with members of the university community.

Our website, http://www.theminaretonline.com, has in the past provided a lively forum for feedback, and we hope to continue to use it as a medium in the future.

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