I finished a big story about a theft within the Conway Police Department today, a theft officials said had to have been committed by an employee.
Within days of the theft, a longtime officer resigned. I was writing the story several days ago, going around and around trying to avoid mentioning his resignation and its awkward timing. I didn’t want to implicate the officer by bringing up his name. After discussing it in the office, however, the rest of the staff and I decided we couldn’t leave him out. It’s not fair to connect him to the story, but at the same time it’s not possible to ignore the difficult questions.
Today I called the former officer and asked if there was a connection between his resignation and the theft. He said no. He also said he would prefer if I didn’t mention him in the story. I told him I couldn’t do leave him out, simply because of the close proximity of the timing. This is a small enough town that people would point out the less than thorough reporting if I left him out. I have to address it, I told the former officer, and I will do my best to not turn the question into an implication.
It’s not fun to have to balance someone’s reputation with the public’s right to know. Hopefully I was able to balance that well. We’ll see what people say tomorrow.