Thursday, September 28, 2006

Everyone contribbutes, everyone is responsible

By FRANK PHILLIPS
We had a close call Friday, Sept. 22.
By “we” I mean we as a community.
Yes, I subscribe to the theory, “It takes a village to raise a child.” At least, I believe the village influences the way the child is raised. Each adult is also part of the community. When things go wrong in a person’s life, it touches everyone in the community.
Things could have gone so wrong Friday if Deputy Jon Lambert had not chosen to surrender peacefully after his 14-hour standoff with police.
The authorities are to be congratulated for being patient. We have seen live TV coverage of situations that turned out much differently. I remember the Waco debacle as being one such incident.
Nevertheless, while Mr. Lambert is safe and sound in jail, it is more than a shame that his family and friends have to bear the brunt of seeing him charged with various crimes, though innocent until proven guilty.
This incident, with others that have gained national attention in the past few years in Clay County, underscores the great responsibility parents and spouses have to their families.
I will never forget receiving a telephone call at the office one day after a man was arrested on drug charges.
His wife called to tell me I “had ruined their family” by putting the report in the newspaper.
I understand that people say things in times of stress they may not say upon later reflection. But I also wanted to say, “I think your husband did something to contribute to the problem. It isn’t all in the newspaper’s hands.”
I didn’t say that, of course. But it underscores the real problem: lack of personal responsibility for our actions, before tragedies occur.
I know it’s easy to blame the media for reporting bad news. It’s also easy to blame the media when they fail to report an important story.
I cherish our American freedoms and abhor censorship. I am glad CNN and The Brazil Times have the freedom not only to disseminate news good or bad, but everyone, not just reporters, has the ability to learn things through the Freedom of Information Act and Indiana’s Open Door Law.
I sometimes think people would rather live in a society where police and government officials are not accountable to the people they serve rather than in America where we have access to information those same officials would probably rather not see published.
In fact, it seems media is becoming more restrained rather than bolder as time goes on. Read the old newspapers from the early 1900s. Attempted suicides, alleged thefts, drunkenness — whatever the situation, newspapers named names, sometimes not differentiating between alleged crimes and people found guilty in a court of law.
That leads to another issue that arose Friday night.
“Why did The Brazil Times not publish Lambert’s name when other media did?”
The reason was simple: reporters were not allowed close to Lambert’s home. His telephone number is not listed in the phone book. Though “everybody knew” it was Jon Lambert, there was no official verification.
Can you imagine the uproar if it was not Mr. Lambert in the house? Can you imagine the lawsuits? Apparently some other media do not care if they have the facts or not or if they open themselves to libel or not. The Brazil Times does care and tries to be accurate.
Remember the recent coal mine disaster, when morning newspapers reported most of the coal miners were found alive? Before those editions hit the streets, the mistake was learned. Most of the miners were found dead, not alive. What an uproar ensued!
That brings us back to our original thesis: people must take responsibility for their actions.

Frank Phillips is The Brazil Times Managing Editor. He can be reached at frankphi@hotmail.com or at the office.