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Names used when they're public record

April 23, 2006|By Liz Thompson

Several times a month, I get calls from people who don't want their name or a family member's name in the paper.

In every case I can think of, my response has been, "Sorry. If we do that story, your name is going to be in it."

Most of the calls are from people who have been charged with a crime.

Some people think that if they call and say "don't put my name in the newspaper," then we can't use the name. It doesn't work like that.

Charging documents are a matter of public record and we don't need permission to print the information they contain - including the name of the person charged.

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The only time we don't print the name is if the person is a juvenile or if printing the name of someone charged with a sexual crime would identify the victim.

And there are exceptions to the juvenile policy. If the juvenile is charged as an adult, we use the name.

I have gotten calls from people asking to have their names deleted from the list we run monthly on driving under the influence sentencings. In fact, it is probably the most frequent "don't use my name" call that I get.

These callers tell me how printing their names in that list will get them in trouble with family members, bosses, neighbors, you name it. I always explain that we don't make exceptions. Every person on that list on any given month would prefer not to have his or her name in the newspapers. We don't pick and choose. We run them all.

When I tell them we don't make exceptions, people often tell me I just don't understand.

Of course I do. Who would want their name listed in the newspaper for bad reasons? I wouldn't want my name published under those circumstances either. But believe me, you'll see my name on the list if I am ever charged with a DUI.

It won't matter that I work here. It won't matter that I don't like it.

There are times people don't want their names included in the marriage licenses, divorces or deed transfer listings.

These people haven't done anything wrong. They just "don't want people to know my business," as one caller told me.

We don't edit those lists either.

Our thinking is this - it is a matter of public record and anyone can find the information.

With today's technology, more and more of this information is available through online searches, so you might not even need to travel outside your home to obtain it.

Readership surveys tell us that readers like having the information about who is getting married, who is getting divorced and how much the neighbors get for their house.

We made the decisions years ago to run these lists. And since we run the lists, we use all of the names.

Liz Thompson is city editor of The Herald-Mail. She may be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 7682, or by e-mail at lizt@herald-mail.com.

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