Why we print the bad news

Posted:
When newspapers run the photos of breaking news items or video clips of fires, accidents or other tragedies, it is not – as some people often claim – “to sell more newspapers.”
First, in our case, we sell very few newspapers. Most are delivered free to neighborhoods in our coverage areas. The few we do have in coin boxes and at grocery stores barely cover the cost of their printing and distribution. We do it as a way to provide the paper to those who want it but don’t receive it. We can’t throw newspapers to everyone; this is a business.
So when we run a disturbing photo as we did of Nathan Buhl, recently appointed principal of Milton High School, it was not without more than a little thought. The arrest photo shows Buhl with a swollen and stitched face.
It was suggested among the editors that we run a less graphic photo of the unfortunate Buhl. But in the end, we decided to run it because it was news and we are a newspaper.
According to police reports, Buhl, 37, on the night of July 26 allegedly hit a parked car and later that evening crashed his car. The next day, he was arrested and faces charges of DUI in Cherokee and Forsyth counties.
When he crashed his car, he was apparently on his way home. The result of the crash sent him to the hospital for treatment, and he was released the next morning into police custody. He has resigned as principal and at the age of 37, the man named 2013-14 Principal of the Year has ended a promising career.
So why run the photo of his swollen face? As we stated, first, it was news. It shows graphically how he suffered. While we understand the photo will add to the misery of a fine man and his family, it is also an object lesson to any who might think, “There for the grace of God go I.”
It is why we publish the names of all those arrested for DUI and drugs. Yes, it is news. But it also has the effect of giving each of us pause. Everyone is guilty of some small act they would not like everyone to know. But some acts have dangerous consequences that can endanger others as well as the perpetrators. We believe this practice has a chilling effect on some, who then call a cab or use a designated driver rather than drive impaired.
So when people who hold positions of public trust stumble, then yes we report it, warts and all. It is up to the readers to judge if our coverage overstepped the bounds of good taste.