Editorial: We Will Not Print Hearsay



We are asked fairly regularly why certain stories don’t make it into our newspaper.  It is a legitimate question, but one that must be explained.

True journalism explores facts and not hearsay, regardless of how many people in the community may have heard about a story that is more than likely true.

However, when it comes to law enforcement issues, we will never print hearsay because that is a recipe for a libel lawsuit.

As a small, weekly newspaper, our resources for gathering news is limited, and we do the best we can to produce a newspaper on time.

That entails excellent time management skills, which even on the best weeks, simply isn’t enough to uncover what we would like to know.

We are generally able to get all the information we need from Sheriff Oscar Carrillo and his staff, if the Sheriff’s Office made an arrest or his office has  investigated an accident.

Mr. Carrillo provides us with photos and supporting information about an arrest or an accident that he or his deputies are investigating.

Also, Sgt. Elizabeth Barney from the El Paso Division of the DPS has been a good resource for us when DPS handles an accident in Culberson County.

Other law enforcement agencies, namely, federal agencies, are not as accessible with doling out information, albeit, it is public information. This would include the FBI, the DEA and overall, the Department of Homeland Security.

While we believe that it is our duty to report on news that has happened in Van Horn and in Culberson County relating to arrests and other major events, our ethics will not allow us to print rumors. Doing so would be a violation of our most basic values in journalism – to report the truth.

Reporting the truth means only one thing to an editor. The truth comes in the form of a news release or an interview with a law enforcement official who has the authority to speak with the media.

Anything else would be negligence. We must be able to substantiate a sensitive law enforcement news story with attribution to a credible law enforcement officer.

We will not retreat from our policy because doing so would put us into libelous jeopardy – an editor’s worst nightmare. We will not venture there.



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