So, here I am going through the reader responses to my column on teen drinking arrests, and what do we get?
Another police report, with more teens charged with underage drinking.
So, moms and dads? Whatever our policy might be on preserving news of the citations for eternity via our Internet archives, it might be a good idea to remind your kids that it is illegal to drink alcohol if you’re a) younger than 21, and b) not in your own home under your own parent’s supervision.
The bust this weekend was the third in recent weeks.The newspaper just reports what happened. It carries with it the added heft of the names forever sitting in a searchable database, one Google away from future embarrassment.
That was the concern of one of those recently charged: The fear that a search would pop up the name later, possibly interfering with scholarships or job prospects. Aside from unplanned pregnancy, that’s one of the scarier things that could come from a night of teen drinking.
So, I asked: Should the newspaper “sunset” the news of underage drinking arrests so that it wouldn’t haunt their adulthood?
Pretty much the response was no, though a significant number oppose reporting the teens’ names altogether.
One of the more thoughtful comments came from a reader who pointed out how the Internet itself increasingly is organized around our identities, with information from various sites gradually aggregated around us.
“Your paper cannot sunset any details,” she writes in an email. “The siren allure and commercial gold of the Internet is congealing into a total knowledge database of each person that far surpasses the imagination.
“You cannot escape.”
“Collegemom” offered a thoughtful counterpoint in an online comment. “Because teens are in a learning stage and are not yet considered adults, the media should not print their names unless they are the perpetrator of a violent crime...
“Who does it really serve to print this or to keep it online?” she asks. “Is anyone better or safer because of knowing this information?”
“Little Lamb” posed a possible solution: Hide the information behind a pay wall. Many papers do that already, and I’m guessing we’ll be headed in that direction as part of our general move toward charging for the content we provide.
In that scenario, the information still would be available, but it wouldn’t come up in a casual search unless you paid for access.
So there we are. We don’t plan to change anything at the moment, though naturally everything we do is subject to review.
In the meantime? Remind your kids: If you think a hangover is bad, the one from the Internet might last forever.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes online.com. Follow at twitter.com/