Our Opinion:Impatience in the electronic age

Friday, June 16, 2006

People want immediacy from broadcast news, demanding to see the latest development in the latest scandal involving a celebrity or involving a particularly bizarre crime.

The public is often fed information that has yet to be confirmed or to be put into context.

People don't expect quite the immediacy (or the sensationalism) from print news but there is some spillover of expectations for print media in the age of instant gratification.

Actually, there always was a desire among newspaper staff to get information in the paper as soon as possible and this is true at the Chronicle Times. We place the highest priority on obituary information, and the local funeral homes are cooperative in that effort.

Next to obituaries, people demand immediacy in the reporting of serious injury and serious crime. This is information usually provided by law enforcement agencies, although law enforcement agencies are limited in the disbursal of some information.

Unless the serious injury is the result of a traffic accident or a crime, the law enforcement agency might not have information on the injury and even if the agency has information on a serious injury, specific details may be protected by confidentiality laws. These confidentiality requirements are also true of hospitals.

In providing public information to us, the police department and sheriff's department are usually timely, with some exceptions. We did get impatient a few weeks back when we couldn't get information to accompany a photo of a traffic accident for a few days.

Usually, we aren't in that much of a hurry to print information on accidents or crime reports that aren't serious. Reports of misdemeanors and fender benders may be delayed because of space requirements.

Sometimes the public is aware of something that doesn't get into the paper for a time and wants to know why it hasn't.

Such is the case of an item in police reports in today's issue regarding a juvenile striking another juvenile with a vehicle in Quimby, resulting in charges of willful injury and leaving the scene.

We have had more than one inquiry about why this June 4 incident wasn't immediately reported. The reason is not because of a conspiracy of silence by either law enforcement or the newspaper, as one citizen implied.

The reason for the delay is that the sheriff's department took the time necessary to investigate the matter before filing charges. As impatient as the public or the press may sometimes get, there are considerations that outweigh our demands for immediacy.