WTVM Editorial 5/28/17: Reporting the facts

(WTVM) - Recently, one of our news stories posted to Facebook got a lot of comments - some supportive, but many that took us to task, telling us the story should have never been posted.

We posted information released by the Columbus Police Department, that included the name and picture of the officer who struck and killed a fleeing murder suspect with his patrol car.

It was a story we covered from the beginning. Deonte Giles, a suspect in the murder of Dudley Jones, Jr., became the subject of a police pursuit.

To stop the fleeing suspect, who officers saw exit his vehicle with a gun, Officer Ryan Vardman took action to eliminate the threat, striking and killing Giles with his police car.

As we routinely do when we cover a story, we interviewed the murder suspect's family, the police chief, eyewitnesses and others to share as much information as possible.

But it was our Facebook post of the officer's identity, released by the police department itself, that caused many to express their dislike of what we had done.

Many of the comments sharply criticized us, saying we had no business naming the officer. Supporters responded by saying it was a legitimate news story.

We reported the officer's identity to be fully transparent, to present the full facts for viewers.  We don't mold news content to fit any agenda. Nor do we withhold pertinent information.

Just as we always identify people who are arrested or injured, or worse, the officer's name was another basic fact made public by the police.

If we censor the news, whether it's a Facebook post or an on-air interview, then we fail the viewers we work for.

We always respect the opinions of our viewers. Your comments matter to us.

Meanwhile, we have to make journalistic decisions that are not always popular. Some stories are difficult to tell because news is not always simple.

Whether viewers follow us on Facebook or watch us over the air, we believe more information, not less, is always in the best interests of our community.

General Manager Holly Steuart brings two editorials a week to WTVM. If you would like to respond to an editorial, e-mail your response to hsteuart@wtvm.com or write to:

WTVM Editorial Committee

1909 Wynnton Road

Columbus, GA 31906

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