By Nita Johnson
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
The life of a reporter in one’s hometown has its bonuses as well as its drawbacks, especially when it is a small town where people know or have known other people’s families for generations past.
The positives of being familiar with the town and the people in it is the opportunities and the history that is logged in your memory. You know many people outside the work place or designated “beat,” which helps in researching and finding stories about the everyday person. You may know their parents, grandparents or family members, which is also a plus.
Although London and Laurel County are a far cry from the big city, we are blessed to have many wonderful, outstanding, talented and generous people to claim as hometown folks. Those people may not have the long-standing family reputation of the founders of the town — they may just be good citizens, good business people, and or good people who have come to the area to avoid the city life and live in a town that centers on progress.
Notwithstanding the faults of our fair county, we have an excellent place to raise children and live a life as full and meaningful as we dare to make it. We have an airport, recreational areas, free festivals, and a multitude of activities from sports to charitable organizations dedicated to helping develop positive aspects of life. Money is not always the issue for children in the area to have opportunities, as most organizations offer discounts and/or scholarships so that no child who wants to participate will be denied.
Like any other town, however, we have our problems here. Prescription drugs and methamphetamine still rank our county high on the list for the drug epidemic that has overcome our nation. Through the diligent efforts of law enforcement, these numbers have drastically reduced over the past few years.
We have had our share of ‘news’ this year, with mothers neglecting their children for a party, for money, or even for a truck. Sex abuse cases have raged on the front page of the paper, along with home invasions, thefts and burglaries, shootings, and even a murder.
Many times those cases are difficult to present to the public without disclosing intimate facts that would identify a victim. Sometimes, legal charges related to specific incidents leave little doubt as to the victim’s identity and it is those times that doing what is right by the victim and dispelling to the public what they need to know teeters on a very thin line.
It is times such as that when “the right write” comes into play.
There are times when the “meat” of a story must be subdued so victims will not be easily identified. There are other times that it is virtually impossible to disclose some information without details that will link the person to the victim.
Victims are just that — victims, something they never intend to become. In home invasions, the only thing a victim did wrong was answer a knock at their door. In one situation, a victim was lying in a bed when an intruder came through a window. In another, a victim simply stopped to offer help to someone appearing to be experiencing car trouble, and due to that concern, the victim was robbed, attempted to be stabbed, and left to wonder why an intended good deed turned so wrong.
While the headlines of the newspapers may summarize a particular incident, it is commendable that The Sentinel-Echo is one of far too few media outlets that continue to protect victims from easy attention. It is admirable that the decision-makers have more respect for the victim of offenses than just selling newspapers. It is honorable that the staff here recognize the ‘thin line’ between news and sensationalism.
And, as we kick off Thanksgiving week and remind ourselves of all the good things in our lives, I am always thankful for the cooperative, concerned, caring people here at The Sentinel-Echo that I consider as an extended family. After spending nine years away from the newspaper industry, my re-joining of the group here was like the prodigal son (daughter, as the case may be) coming back home.
For that, I will always be thankful. Happy Thanksgiving!