News versus ethics

Release of juvenile name stirs debate

 

By Jeff Jobe
Jobe Publishing, Inc.

The release of a juvenile name and video footage by the Sheriff’s office is causing quite a stir in Edmonson County.

There have been two news items posted on the online media site Edmonson Voice that from a first glance appear to be typical news items similar to those found on news outlet sites across Kentucky.

The first story was posted on February 1, 2016 when three teens were injured in a car fire while the second was posted March 6, 2018 when a teen was injured in a wreck and subsequently charged with driving under the influence.

Each story gave insight in the incidents that resulted in the teenagers being injured and transported to hospitals in Nashville for treatment of their injuries.

Kentucky Revised Statutes prohibit law enforcement agencies from releasing the names of persons under the age of 18.  Numerous Kentucky Attorneys General have upheld the state law as a protection of juveniles.

While the statutes are directed at law enforcement officials and not newspapers, there is a long-standing tradition of newspaper publishers and editors believing that it is in the best interest of the juvenile not to publicize such names.

It has been Jobe Publishing’s experience in five of the six counties in which the company publishes newspapers, that no law enforcement officials release the names of individuals under age 18 in accordance with Kentucky law.  The exception to this legal standard has been the Edmonson County Sheriff’s Office; that agency has issued press releases with juvenile names unredacted.

The issues surrounding the two stories are quite different.  Regarding the February 1, 2016 story, there was a video secured by Edmonson County Sheriff Shane Doyle which shows the teens in a vehicle when something happened to ignite a blast and one teen jumped out of the vehicle on fire.

In the online news story on the website owned by Darren Doyle, brother of Sheriff Shane Doyle, he wrote, “Police said three teens, one age 18 and two juveniles, whose names were not released, told police that they were spraying the body spray on each other inside a Ford Taurus when one of the boys lit a cigarette. Police reported that the teens told them the fumes from the spray ignited and the boys were badly burned.”

Not long after the incident the Edmonson Voice, the Edmonson County Sheriff and the Bowling Green promotions and design firm Yellowberri created and released publicly a video showing footage of the burning teens exiting the vehicle.  The public found itself confused knowing the actual incident at which the video footage was shot and finding it used as a public service announcement depicting the dangers of huffing.  Huffing is the act of inhaling a broad range of household chemicals whose vapors produce intoxicating effects.  No charges were ever brought against the juveniles or the 18-year old.

According to a concerned parent and an audio recording obtained by the Edmonson News, Sheriff Doyle was made aware that his public service announcement was causing pain to the juveniles and their families.  The following is an audio transcript of Doyle regarding the video.

 

“Hello this Shane down at the Sheriff’s office, um going to leave you a message here.  I just got off the phone with your wife and I’m just going to tell you I hung up on her because she kept yelling at me after I kept telling her to calm down and talk to me like a person.  Um, I would be more than happy to talk to you about this whole situation with the video.  Um, this video was released as a public service announcement to try to keep somebody else from getting hurt and we obscured the faces and license plate on the video.   We didn’t release any names or locations.  Um, obviously this is Brownsville so some people are going to know who is involved.  Uh, that’s not because we released that information.   Uh, it’s just because she chose to live in a small town.  Uh, so like I said I would like to talk to you about this is you have any questions.  I would be glad to have a conversation with you as long as it can be done in a civil manner.   Uh, so feel free to call me here at the office.   I have a meeting at 3:30 and I won’t be in the office from about 10 minutes on.”

Friends of individuals who made comments can still see the original thread on Facebook but it is a phantom because the video has been removed.   Documents also show that Gary S. Logsdon and Associates was handling this issue for one of the juveniles.

In the March 6 news item regarding the injured teen and a DUI charge, the writer reported, “The Sheriff’s Office said that they found the driver, [name redacted by The Gimlet] (16) of Chalybeate, unconscious. He was transported to the hospital by Edmonson EMS and later transported to Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville, according to the Sheriff’s Office.”

Once again, the news story became a highly discussed topic on social media, particularly Facebook where it has resulted in hundreds of comments about identifying the juvenile charged with DUI.

According to Denise Browning, a concerned citizen and one of the early individuals commenting on this issue, “I initially made my post on Facebook because I saw a clear example of a child being bullied and this just wasn’t right.  I went to bed thinking this is a terrible thing where a teenager can make a mistake and it be exploited like it was on social media.   I had a bad taste for my community but the next morning I found hundreds of likes and dozens of wonderful comments from some of the finest people I have ever known in Brownsville.   They all agreed with me, we don’t want our kids treated this way.”

The Facebook post of the story has been removed along with the numerous comments.  However, the story is still posted on the Edmonson Voice website.

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