Contrary to what some people think, our news staff neither takes joy in other people’s misery nor likes to shock our readers. At the same time, it’s not the purpose of this paper to downplay criminal charges, even when they involve matters that make some people uncomfortable.
We received two letters and a few phone calls recently when we printed a story about charges levied against a Londonderry man for child pornography. The charges include the phrase “Indecent Exposure and Lewdness,” in each of the six counts; in no way did the story convey any kind of identification of the children who were the subject of the photos. But for some people, the article was too graphic.
This week we are reporting on the warrant issued for the arrest of Derry Town Administrator John Anderson for “lewd and lascivious conduct” allegedly occurring at his home. Plenty of graphic rumors circulated about what happened, even as a month-long investigation by the state police and later the county attorney’s office took place, but our story addresses the actions leading to the charges with, we hope, only the amount of detail needed for readers to understand what is being charged.
Meanwhile in Chester, we have been continuing to report on the new charges levied against a local convicted sex offender. The legal process has been going on for months, and in a small town like Chester, residents know or know of the man.
It likely is hard for many to accept that people in our communities exhibit behavior that leads to such charges – and charges they are, not convictions, as in most instances, the cases have yet to go to court.
But we don’t make up these things. And however difficult it is to hear that people we may know are alleged to have committed sexual crimes, it happens.
Ignorance is not bliss. We may think we’re isolated from unpleasant crimes by our rural environment, but we’re not. And a newspaper does no one a service by downplaying one crime as opposed to another. Is robbery more acceptable than a sexual crime? Assault? What about drunk driving that leads to a charge of manslaughter?
Our towns are microcosms of the larger society, and we are home to the good, the bad and all the in between. We try to write in good taste and understand that we can’t satisfy everyone. We will, however, continue to report the news, as disturbing as it may be.