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October 12, 2011 - Jodelle Greiner
We don’t print the news the way we used to. I ran across this little gem in the Tuesday, Oct. 11, 1960, issue of the Sentinel. (Please note: the original articles ran full names, I used initials for the last names; otherwise, these articles are printed just as they ran, complete with mistakes.)
“Boy Pulls Lever Car Goes Crash “I pulled the lever. CRASH, BANG!” That was a 6-year-old boy’s full explanation of the lone traffic incident investigated by Fairmont police Monday. “Have you got a driver’s license, Sonny?” asked the investigating policement. “I don’t know. Do I got a driver’s license, Mommy?” asked the youngster, turning to his mother. The terse explanation of the accident was given by Bruce Neil L., 6-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd L., Route 1, Fairmont. It followed a minor collision at 10:25 a.m. Monday in the Fairmont Community hospital parking lot. Bruce was in the car waiting for his mother who was in the hospital. He pulled the shift lever into neutral and the L. car rolled backward into another parked car. Damage was only about $15 to the right rear of the L. 1959 Ford and about $25 to the trunk of a 1948 Chevrolet owned by Leona C. S., 2561 Albion avenue.”
We’d never get away with printing something like that nowadays.
For starters, police would never be able to release the little guy’s name to the press. He’d be considered a juvenile delinquent by today’s standards. His mother would probably be charged with child abandonment or at least neglect and Child Protective Services would be called. Plus, the offended party (meaning the owner of the car the kid hit) would probably try to sue so their insurance wouldn’t go up. And boy, would the paper hear it from the general public, “How dare the newspaper embarrass that little boy and his parents! They don’t deserve that! This is a private matter!”
Back when this was printed, there were a lot fewer laws governing the information that police could release, especially about juveniles. Plus society was very different. Newspapers printed all kinds of small-town stuff like this. Everyone read it, got a good laugh, kidded the family and forgot about it, except to recall it years later, “Remember when little Bruce got in the paper because he had that car accident? What was he, 6 or so?”
Here’s another one, printed Wednesday, Oct. 12, 1960, in the “People and Events in the News” section:
“Dr. and Mrs. G.N. K., 1025 S. Prairie avenue, are in San Francisco, Calif., this week where Dr. K. is attending the annual meeting of the American College of Surgeons. He is also taking a post-graduate course in surgery. The K.s made the trip by airline and expect to be back in Fairmont Sunday.”
Again, we’d never print this one nowadays. People are a lot less innocent and they’d NEVER make public that they were going to be out of town for a week, especially during the trip and with their address right there in print! That’s an invite to every burglar in a 100-mile radius! If those folks would do that now, they’d come home to a cleaned-out house. Incidentally, that’s also the reason obituaries no longer carry street addresses — think about it, you’re announcing to the world when the services are (translation: when the house will be empty) and the exact location. Perfect opportunity for a burglar and believe me, it was done, that’s why the change was made.
Here’s another great example in the Oct. 13, 1960 issue:
“Area Hospital News Fairmont Oct. 12 — Admitted Judson S.J., 906 E. Fourth street, medical. Mrs. Elmer W. 1011 S. Orient street, surgery. Winnebago Oct. 9 — Admitted Mrs. William M., Winnebago, maternity. Discharged Mrs. Stuart E., Winnebago.”
This used to be a big news item in every newspaper. Everybody wanted to know who was in the hospital and why they were there. Then they could send cards or bring over a casserole for the convalescent person or new mother. It was an easy way to let everyone know if you were sick or had surgery; saved calling everyone and this way, everyone could get the facts out of the paper. Like small-town innocence, this news item has gone the way of the dinosaur.
First; you don’t want to tell a burglar about an empty house and where to find it. Also, hospital news isn’t something released to newspapers as a matter of course like it was back then due to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which prohibits health professionals and facilities from releasing personal information about patients.
A lot of people nowadays scream at us for printing some bit of information or another. What you don’t seem to realize is there are laws making that information public. Whether that information gets in a newspaper or not, it is out there for public consumption, all you have to do is ask for it.
There are many of these laws that are public so people can protect themselves, like laws governing the publication of where sex offenders live. This is so the public can keep track of where they are and know when they have one living next to them.
Land owners are public information, marriage licenses and divorces are public information, deaths are public information. If you are arrested, charged or convicted of a crime, it becomes public information — it is NOT a “private matter”.
Do not scream at the media — we are operating on the letter of the law. We’re not lawmakers, we can’t do anything about the laws that are in place. If you do not like the laws that govern this information being public, talk to your legislators and tell them you want the laws changed. They’re the ones who can do something about that. Until you make a change, things will go on as before.
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