In any custody issue you are, obviously, dealing with strong emotions. Would a parent lie about another parent in order to retain or obtain custody? Of course.
Based on the conversations I have had with parents, it happens all the time. It is not the newspaper's job to sort through who is telling the truth in a custody case and who is not. That's what happens in family court.
Parents tell me they have "proof" of abuse or neglect. I have to believe if there were proof, someone would be charged by police. Child abuse is a crime and one that local police take seriously.
I feel bad for the parents - and the children - involved in these cases. Families are not meant to be torn apart like this. A newspaper story is not going to fix this kind of problem.
Another issue we don't write about unless charges are filed is domestic violence. On occasion, I have had people, usually women, come to our office or call me on the phone alleging they have been beaten or abused in some way by their husbands or boyfriends.
More often, I get calls from people not directly connected to abusive situations. During election season - although it has not happened during the city election - I have gotten calls from people who claim a candidate is abusive. The caller "knows" this because he or she has seen it or heard it or heard about it. The caller never called the police, but thinks the newspaper should write about it.
I can say that I have never instructed a reporter to ask a candidate, "Do you still beat your wife?" and I'm not planning to start now.
We always do background checks on candidates, but we don't write about criminal issues that can't be documented.
To do so would be irresponsible, not to mention legally dangerous. We are in the business of reporting facts.
People who believe someone else is being harmed in a domestic situation should not call the newspaper. They should call the police. Doing so just may save a life.
Liz Thompson is city editor of The Herald-Mail. She may be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 7682, or by e-mail at email@example.com.