Knowledge is...Your Right

By: Roger Sheppard
By: Roger Sheppard

Wthholding information causes concerns

Information is power and the with-holding of information is often confused with power as well. We in the news media battle every day to get information to pass along to you. But a recent tragedy in Wirt County left us scratching our heads about why information was being held up. As you may recall, a young Akron, Ohio, boy was tragically killed in an accident at a church camp on June 14. Though we routinely check with various law enforcement agencies at various times, every day, we got no information about this incident from any official source until several days later. By that time, we had already heard about it through un-official sources, and tracked down enough reliable information to run a story about it. The West Virginia state police trooper who was handling the investigation, was off for a week after the incident and left no information that could be shared with the news media. The State Police headquarters in Charleston either had no information, or released no information, until the following Wednesday. The details they eventually gave is, were ones we already had. Why does this matter? A young boy had lost his life. What more needs to be said? The state police said his family had asked that no information be released. I don’t blame the family and given the choice, we would all prefer that painful, tragic information about our families would never be made public. But we live in a small community, and lots of people know each other, or know friends of victims, or co-workers, or school-mates. People should not have to rely on hearsay and social media babble to get information. They should be able to get it from reliable news sources, like us. If taxpayers’ dollars are being used to handle a call or do an investigation, the people who are paying the bill – that’s you and everyone else – have a right to know what’s going on. In this case, the victim was not from this area and his name and face were unknown to most of us. So there should have been little concern that anything we would have said or shown, would be upsetting to local family members. So the next time you’re reading about an alleged news event on social media but you’re not hearing it on our TV stations or our webchannel, you can be assured it’s because it’s either NOT true, or it’s because official sources won’t confirm details and we won’t run information we can’t confirm. We owe it to you to do our best to give you accurate information in a timely fashion. That’s this week’s editorial. -------- Additional thoughts… Sometimes it’s courts, who want to keep some proceedings hush-hush. Sometimes it’s elected officials, who don’t want to discuss problems or short-comings, but only want to tout their successes. And sometimes, it’s from law enforcement agencies, who withhold information for reasons sometimes known only to themselves. WTAP prides itself on good working relationships with many local and regional law enforcement agencies. It is in the interest of both parties to work together. We can and do help them catch criminals, by doing our “Mid-Ohio Valley’s Most Wanted” feature each week, which is also featured on our webchannel, TheNewsCenter-dot-tv. When there are major emergencies, we work together to get information out in as organized and clear-cut manner as possible.

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