Those arrested on the University of Connecticut campus this academic year may not feel lucky, but actually they are catching a break. Their arrests are being published in the student-run campus daily newspaper as has been typical for decades, but their names are not being made public.
In the fall of 2013, UCONN student editors ended — at least for this academic year — The Daily Campus’ long-standing practice of publishing names in its regular Police Blotter feature. The change elicited some sharp questions from members of the paper’s board of directors, some head-shaking and exasperation from the journalism faculty and an apparent tweet by a former Daily Campus staffer who labeled the change as “lame.”
Emotional responses and resistance to change notwithstanding, UCONN’s student journalists are far from alone in considering whether to follow past practices when the Internet has bestowed immortality and eased access to all types of information.
The Miami Student, the paper of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, announced in October it, too, had eliminated names in its Police Beat column. UCONN Daily Campus Editor-in-Chief Kimberly Wilson said the student editors she met at an internship training session in 2013 told her they did not publish names in their college papers’ police logs. As a Dow Jones News Fund editing intern for Cox Media Group, Wilson said she also saw police blotters without names being published in several professional daily papers.
Diana Mitsu Klos, executive director of the Minneapolis-based Associated Collegiate Press, said the decisions made at UCONN and elsewhere are ones all student editors should think about. On one hand, the reality of dwindling resources at both student and professional news agencies is leading to less follow-up in arrest coverage. The days when many papers published the court disposition of every person arrested is long gone, for example. On the other hand, Internet search engines make it nearly impossible for people to hide past indiscretions. It is difficult to mesh this fact with the ethical principle of minimizing harm to students who are charged with possession of small amounts of marijuana or alcohol-induced disorderly conduct.