2016-10-06 / Views

How we decide what needs to be covered

We’re not going to write a news story about the adult son of county Prosecutor Joseph Hubbell being arrested in Traverse City for, basically, getting drunk and making poor decisions short of driving.

Yes, on these pages that’s a contradictory statement within itself. But our readers deserve to know the thought process behind our decisions, and this one can be construed to smack of favoritism. That’s especially true given the further conflict of having Amy Hubbell, the Prosecutor’s wife, on our staff.

So silence is not an option.

Our coverage standard takes into account fairness, consistency, and, perhaps surprisingly, geography.

As you know, we cover all goings-on with arrests made in Leelanau County. That’s consistent. Had the incident occurred here, there would be no decision to make.

But the arrest was made in Grand Traverse County. As a rule we don’t publish misdemeanor charges that occur outside of Leelanau. We do make exceptions with charges filed directly against public officials when we learn of them.

And we do cover felony charges against county residents wherever they occur. Here, consistency is a problem. We can only cover what we know.

In this case that’s not relevant. Another publication chose to cover the arrest extensively, drawing links to prosecutor Hubbell.

And so we are having this discussion.

We feel that coverage of criminal charges should not be elevated simply because the accused is a relative of a county official. If a county official is somehow involved, that’s different. In this case, neither parent was there or sought to intervene.

If coverage of a criminal charge would normally be warranted, then the relationship with a public official may need to be explained — especially if last names are the same.

A lower standard has the potential to wander. Should we publish a petty theft charge originating in another county that is filed against the husband of a county commissioner, but not her mother? Should we make an exception and publish charges in Manistee County when, say, the 18-year-old son of the county Sheriff drives on a suspended license — but not his 45-year-old daughter?

We would need to make an exception to our own policies to cover the incident with the Prosecutor’s son. So we won’t.

With the publishing of this explanation, though, that’s hardly a kind gesture for the Hubbell family, which has handled the media coverage with a respect for the law and remorse. Unfortunately, we have now piled onto the media coverage.

But we need to tell readers why we do what we do.

— by Alan Campbell

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Leelanau Enterprise does an

Leelanau Enterprise does an excellent job in deciding what stories need to be covered. If newspapers would follow your lead than the newspaper industry wouldn't be in the dire straights it is in now! Well Done!