Callum Borchers' Blog

Sociologically significant sports (and class assignments)

Right to know vs. right to privacy

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This is off my beat, but I believe it’s worth sharing.

Last Wednesday, I wrote an article for Wellesley Patch, called “Wellesley Police Make First Arrests of Thanksgiving Week.” The story included brief accounts of two drunk driving arrests that occurred in the days leading up to the holiday. In keeping with the publication’s standard practice, we posted the offenders’ names and addresses.

On Monday, I received the following e-mail:

Hi Callum, I appreciate your attempting to alert the community, and as a mother of 4 children, I greatly appreciate what you are doing, but there is another side to this story that you should have been aware before you wrote this. A drunk driving offense could happen to anybody, you included. Pam Stanley is a loving, single mother who was on her way home from a holiday party. True her eyes were blood shot, but a big reason is because she had been crying. I understand that you want to report a story, but it is NOT necessary, and frankly I find irresponsible reporting, to print her full name and address. Because of your article, she is now in a position that she could lose her job. Then she would not be able to find another job once anyone hears the circumstances in which she were fired. She is the sole provider of her family. Her husband barely contributes in any way. He is living in VT and barely sees the children. Do you want this on your shoulders? I see that you are young. Since you had no problem including her name, seems to me that you haven’t yet made any mistakes in your life that you regret. Callum, one day you will and, for your sake, I hope no one throws it in your face the way you did to Ms. Stanley. This is Ms. Stanley’s first and last time offense. As wrong as what she did, she should be entitled to make a mistake and to her privacy as a first time offender. I am asking that you please delete her name and address from your article immediately – and certainly before her employment sees this. Thank you. Lauri

Today, I responded:

Hi Lauri,

Thank you for taking time to write to me. Ms. Stanley is lucky to have a friend like you who stands up for her.

I certainly can appreciate your perspective. An arrest report documents a single event, often a person’s most shameful event. It does not include all the good things a person has done in the past, nor does it account for other challenges in a person’s life. I understand why that seems unfair. Sometimes, a good person makes a bad decision.

However, the standard practice of Wellesley Patch and many other publications is to publish the names and addresses of all arrested individuals. Such information is publicly available at any police station in this country. Understand that while Ms. Stanley might desire privacy, she is not entitled to it. In fact, it is the public that is entitled to know the identities of people arrested in their communities.

I hope you are right that this was the first and last time Ms. Stanley will be arrested for OUI and that people who know her will — like you — not forget all of her admirable qualities because of an isolated incident.

Have a safe and happy holiday season,


Just an interesting reminder that we cover real people with real consequences. It’s easy to get frustrated when people don’t understand or appreciate what we do, but I think it’s important for us to understand their perspectives, too.


Written by callumborchers

November 30, 2010 at 3:43 pm

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