Our view: Why we cover criminal charges and their outcomes

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, December 1, 2022

In the Nov. 24 edition of The Luverne Journal, we published a story regarding the acquittal of a man charged with one count of rape in the first degree, two counts of sexual abuse in the first degree, and three counts of enticing a child for immoral purposes.

The story evoked a wide range of emotions from our community members. Some were relieved, while others were angry – and both sides were more than eager to make their voices heard in the comments section of the story on our publication’s Facebook page.

We understand for those deeply connected to the case and issue at hand, the end result of the case was bound to make one side of the case unhappy, but the facts are as they are. The jury appointed for the case made its decision – a decision effectively clearing the man’s name in the legal system, if not in the court of public opinion.

When it comes to covering crime stories, court cases, convictions, and acquittals, we have a responsibility to see the process through to the end and inform the public whether or not the person facing the charges is convicted or acquitted, especially in cases involving alleged crimes against children. Doing otherwise would be irresponsible journalism.

Most people nowadays see a mugshot plastered online with a story and almost immediately come to whatever conclusion the court of public opinion decides to reach. We are fortunate to live in a country where we are innocent until proven guilty, and if the court of public opinion had its say, prison systems nationwide would be chronically and permanently overwhelmed.

One commenter specifically cast blame on our organization and claimed we should be ashamed for reporting the end result of the case. The reader in question is entitled to their opinion, but rest assured, our reporters at The Luverne Journal will not be shamed, bullied, or intimidated by the public for producing a factually-accurate story, which nobody has refuted.

May those both positively and negatively impacted by the results of the case find peace and comfort as they all move forward.