The View from Writers Roost
by WILLIS WEBB
Mar 27, 2014 | 1254 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
NOT LONG AGO, a prominent personality, actor-actress (I never know which to use these days) Reese Witherspoon got into a heap of trouble in the form of negative publicity over that statement.

And, in the interest of fairness here, I’ll admit to being a fan of Ms. Witherspoon.

However, it seems she and her husband, Jim Toth, were driving along (he was behind the wheel) and was stopped by a state trooper. Against instructions from the trooper, Witherspoon got out of the car and argued with the trooper and was thus arrested for the incident.

A repentant Witherspoon has apologized. Her husband has faced the problem and they’re moving on, as they should.

However, the incident resurrects a lot of memories of such incidents: “Do you know (recognize) my name?” “Do you know who I am?”

BEFORE WE go any further, again let me say, in the interest of fairness, that some members of my profession have been guilty of that line of thinking. Some have been celebrities in their own right, others must’ve felt that, since their byline was on a story in the paper, they should be accorded some recognition and favoritism.

I think the vast majority of those in my profession realize that truth and fairness are of utmost importance in what we do and we must be above reproach. I raised four children and always told them if they got in trouble and their name showed up on a police blotter, it would appear in the newspaper just like everyone else.

Apparently, I was blessed because none of us ever had to make that choice.

Any newspaper I published had the same set of rules for employees of the publication. Stay out of trouble or we’ll print your name.

A GREAT MANY community newspapers print police and court activity, including arrests. I feel that law enforcement actions and court activity of all kinds are important to readers of community newspapers. Those readers who work in the public eye, particularly in businesses, need to know about criminal activity, even misdemeanors such as worthless checks or first offense driving while intoxicated (DWI), or a score or more of other such offenses.

Again, in fairness, some newspapers feel arrests in general are not particularly of interest and that sometimes an incident never moves beyond the arrest and charges are dismissed. So, they don’t publish them at all.

Because of the nature of news, reporters and editors often face individuals who, because of some claim to fame or prominence, feel they should be accorded special favors.

While that sort of thing happened with some regularity with me, wherever I published, there’s one particular case that always pops into my mind when something happens like the Toth-Witherspoon case.

The newspaper I was publishing was in a county seat town, a little larger than most towns where I published in my “country newspaper life.”

ON THIS particular day, the receptionist called to tell me that someone had just barged past them saying, “I’m going to see the editor.” Actually, I was the editor and publisher, which meant I had the final say at the paper regardless of the circumstance.

The man walked into my office calmly enough, offered his hand, introduced himself and informed me that he was an attorney. His last name rang a bell.

“Alright. What can I do for you?”

“I was arrested for DWI last night and I want you to take my name out of the arrest report.”

“I can’t do that.”

“Do you know who I am?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Do you know that my daddy is District Judge So-And-So?”

“Yes.”

“Well?”

“It still doesn’t matter. It’ll be in tomorrow’s paper. Good day.”

Oh, and I never heard from “Daddy Judge.”

A ditch-digger, Reese Witherspoon, or a district judge’s son. Apply it to everyone equally. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s the only thing.

Willis Webb is a retired community newspaper editor-publisher of more than 50 years experience. He can be reached by email at wwebb1937@att.net.
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