Is there a difference between news and gossip? When does the public interest trump personal privacy? Distinguishing news from gossip is often in the eye of the beholder. Yet, no matter what your personal view of what ought to be left to private conversation, several recent “stories” have presented opportunities for all of us to re-access our opinions.
A couple of weeks ago the Clarke Daily News ran a story describing an intoxicated parent that was arrested after attempting to pick-up a student at Berryville Elementary School. We included the parent’s name in our story after the name was released by the Berryville police department. While a few of our readers expressed discomfort with the story (one even referred to the story as “gossip”), most readers applauded the school employees for “doing the right thing” and defended the public interest in hearing the name of the parent. Pleasant news? No, but news none the less.
Another story that everyone seems to know about but hasn’t appeared in print involves several students involved in a school club who were recently disciplined for alcohol use during a school sanctioned event. The disciplinary measures and the student identities are an open secret. Fortunately the infraction didn’t result in physical harm to any of the students. We’re glad that the incident did not become news but teen drinking is a community problem not just a school problem. As with the intoxicated parent at Berryville Elementary, community opinion is sending the message that alcohol and our students don’t mix.
This past week another local news source published a story about Clarke County High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance club. Clarke students, the news source reported, formed the club about a year ago, one of 103 similar student clubs across Virginia. The fact that the story published the full names of gay and bi-sexual students over protests from school officials may be news but the sexual orientation of minors living in Clarke County is not. In fact, the story simply raised the profile on an issue that the student body already is handling independently. Is this story news? Perhaps, but including the names of the students involved goes too far for such a controversial topic.
The Clarke Daily News has been delivering news and information to our community for just six months now. But during that time we have not found any shortage of news (or opinions) about the lives and times of Clarke County, Virginia. In fact, during most weeks there is more news than we can cover. News editors have an obligation and responsibility to report the news responsibly and sensibly. Our goal in creating the Clarke Daily News was to bring you news in ways that, we hope, will make our community stronger and less divided. We will attempt to moderate our reporting in a way that is consistent with Clarke County’s social values. We will likely never agree all of the time, however, your continued comments and participation are key to our collective success.