by Kelly Hawes
A few readers questioned our coverage of the arrest of Mayor Ted Franklin’s son on marijuana charges last week.
For those who missed the story, Jeremy Franklin was arrested Wednesday during a routine traffic stop in Monticello. State police say a police dog sniffed out three pounds of marijuana in his car.
The arrest was Franklin’s second this year. He was arrested in Logansport in April on charges of possession and dealing in marijuana. He is scheduled for a change of plea hearing in that case on Dec. 17.
News of young Franklin’s most recent arrest drew a lot of attention on our Facebook page. Some of those who posted comments objected to the fact that we made the mayor part of the story. The young man is 31 years old, they said. What does his father have to do with his arrest?
“I understand they feel the need to mention he is the mayor’s son,” one reader posted on Facebook, “but really folks, he is responsible for himself and his own bad decisions.”
Another noted, “I think he’s old enough to do what he wants. I’m sure his dad’s not too happy, but you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink unless he wants to.”
One accused the newspaper of selective reporting.
“The Pharos-Tribune reports what they want and don’t report what they don’t want to,” she wrote.
Our goal always is to be fair and to be consistent. We don’t leave out stories about people we like or play up stories about people we don’t.
The reader went on to call out the managing editor personally.
“I often wonder if Kelly Hawes’ son ever got into trouble, when he gets older, if it would actually appear on the front page of the Pharos?” she asked. “Somehow I doubt it! But if it is the mayor’s son, you better believe it will be in there!”
My hope is that her theory will never be tested, but I can tell her what I’ve told my 17-year-old son. If he ever gets arrested, he can rest assured his name will be in the newspaper, and if he’s accused of a crime that would normally make the front page, that’s where his story will be.
Honestly, we try not to treat the children of newspaper employees any differently than we would treat anyone else’s children.
For myself, I try to steer clear of decisions about the handling of stories that involve me or my family. I leave those decisions to other members of our staff.
Frankly, though, we bend over backward in an effort to avoid any appearance of favoritism.
I’m reminded of a story about a small-town newspaper editor who found himself arrested on a charge of drunken driving. He had made a habit of putting such arrests on the front page, and he wanted to be sure he gave himself no better treatment.
His first phone call from the jail was to his newspaper’s photographer, and he ran the photo of his disheveled countenance on the front page of the next edition.
Readers expect their local newspaper to give them the news without fear or favor, and that is what we try to deliver.
If the child of an elected official gets arrested, members of the public want to be assured that the individual gets no favored treatment.
Our goal is to fulfill our obligation of keeping readers informed.
We will make no assumptions about guilt or innocence. We will simply report the proceedings and let justice take its course.
Kelly Hawes is managing editor of the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5155 or firstname.lastname@example.org.