Saturday, May 11, 2019

A question about the 13-year-old driver and this week's top Turner Report/Inside Joplin posts

I often receive criticism about something that has been posted on the Turner Report or on one of the Inside Joplin blogs. That is to be expected not just of a news blog, but for any media outlet. There are always going to be people who do not appreciate the way a post was written or who question details.

I have gone through that for more than 40 years and I can take the criticism and often it has led me to make changes in the way I do things.

Just as often to the anger of those who are not supporters of the Turner Report/Inside Joplin it does not lead to any changes, but explanations that do not satisify them because they are not willing to accept anything that does not go along with their views 100 percent.

Most of the time I have a good idea which posts are going to be problematic and I am ready to take whatever criticisms I receive.

Other times I am caught totally off guard when I receive an unexpected response to a post.

Such was the case earlier this week when I posted a report on Inside Joplin about a 13-year-old Webb City boy who was behind the wheel in a traffic accident in which two people were injured.

I received a Facebook message suggesting that I was violating the Sunshine Law by printing the boy's name.

It was an interesting comment and gave me the opportunity to offer an explanation about both the Sunshine Law and the decision-making process that goes into a post.

First, the Sunshine Law does not apply to me or to most of the people who are reading these words. The law is designed to benefit the public by opening the processes of government and government records to the people.

While they are primarily used by the media, more and more instances of public use of the Sunshine Law has had a positive effect by shining a light on things that often those in government would prefer to keep secret.

The report that the accident was taken from was a public record. All accident reports are. The information was posted on the Highway Patrol website and I post information from the Patrol reports on all of the accidents in this area and accidents involving people from this area.

What the report did not include was any reference to any possible juvenile charges brought against the underage driver. That is not a public record.

Juvenile records are closed to the public. The only exceptions are if the crime is of such a serious nature that a prosecutor recommends and a judge order that the juvenile be tried as an adult.

Such was the case, for instance, in 2006 when a student took a weapon to Memorial Middle School in Joplin and opened fire.

While law enforcement and courts are prevented by law from making juvenile records public, that does not mean that the Turner Report, the Joplin Globe, KODE or any other media outlet is prevented from revealing the name of a juvenile.

We have that right under the First Amendment.

At the same time, I am not going to do it, nor would any of the other news outlets mentioned above. We would not have the backing of public records to support our reports and we would be opening ourselves up to lawsuits, as well as deserved public criticism.

It is not something I am going to do.


This week's top 10 Turner Report, Inside Joplin and Inside Joplin Obituaries posts and links to each of them are featured below.

 Copies of Lost Angels: The Murders of Rowan Ford and Doug Ringler are available locally at Granby Auto Supply and Hardware, Pat's Books in Carthage and Changing Hands Book Shoppe, Always Buying Books and the Book Guy in Joplin. Paperback and e-book versions of the book are available at at the links below.

The Turner Report

1. Observant off-duty JPD officer's call leads to arrest of drunk driver who killed Joplin 8-year-old, Neosho man

2. Court documents; Former Pineville youth minister photographed himself sexually abusing sleeping children

3. Springfield man indicted for committing bank fraud conspiracy in Jasper, Newton, Greene counties

4. Teen Hop documentary and a story about long-time hosts Gerry Henson and Jim Lobbey, plus Ranger Ed

5. Detention motion: Joplin man admitted bringing underage girl to local motel, having sex with her and making videos

6. Preliminary hearing Thursday for former Sarcoxie teacher charged with having sex with student

7. Former Sarcoxie teacher charged with having sex with student bound over for trial

8. Federal grand jury indicts Joplin man for producing child pornography with 16-year-old in motel room

9. So you want to be a Diamond R-4 assistant principal/athletic director

10. Driver who killed Joplin child, Neosho man in Joplin Jail on DWI charge

Inside Joplin

1. Search continues for missing Joplin teen

2. Thirteen-year-old Webb City driver slams into trees, pole, two injured

3. Joplin Police Department Arrests May 6-7

4. Disturbance at Seneca Dairy Queen leads to arrest of two on Joplin, Carthage, jasper County warrants

5. Joplin Police Department Weekend Arrests

6. Jasper County Dissolution of Marriage Petitions

7. Joplin Police Department Arrests May 7-8

8. Seneca Police arrests suspects on Newton County felony child abuse warrants

9. Newton County Dissolution of Marriage Petitions

10. Joplin Police Department Arrests May 8-9

Inside Joplin Obituaries

1. David Peterson

2. Glenn Powell

3. Michael Campbell

4. David Pommert

5. O'Lena Palmer

6. Vanessa Coon

7. Betty Yates

8. Floyd Haas

9. Shirley Baker

10. Debrah Page

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