Ask the Editor

Missing girl’s drug info too personal

sduerr@thetribunenews.comFebruary 21, 2013 

Missing girl found

Teams of firefighters and deputies get briefed Friday before heading out to search for 12-year-old Mikayla Anderson, who was reported missing Thursday. Later on Friday, the girl was brought to the sheriff's command center by her father.

LAURA DICKINSON — ldickinson@thetribunenews.com Buy Photo

Q: Your reporters owe an apology to the girl who went missing last week and her family. Printing information about a minor’s use or non-use of Prozac and her personal family’s dynamics serves no purpose to the general public.

It totally sets her up to be harassed, ridiculed and bullied upon her return to school by classmates. This is one of the most blatant acts of heartlessness I’ve witnessed in a very long time, disgusting really. — Father of a 12-year-old son

A: I appreciate your point of view. Our sole intent in publishing that information was to offer readers all relevant information that might help explain the girl’s disappearance — which triggered a two-day search involving more than 200 people. Thankfully, she was found safe. Sheriff’s officials said the girl had been taking Prozac but had been off it for several days. Such antidepressants are common, with about one in 10 Americans now using them, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While no one can predict human behavior and it’s possible that the young girl was ridiculed, it’s also possible that, with a greater understanding of the situation, our community treated her with kindness and compassion. I certainly hope so.

As we did in this case, we regularly strive to balance a reader’s right to know with a subject’s right to privacy.

On Sunday morning, for example, Tribune photographer Laura Dickinson photographed an accident on Highway 1 at Cuesta College that left one dead and four injured. In posting the news on our website, we selected only a photo of the rescue workers on site. We did not publish a photo showing the Jeep until we had been told that the occupants’ families had been notified.

Q: After reading the Feb. 17 front-page story “Witness to O.J.,’’ I felt writer Patrick S. Pemberton could have relayed the story just as well by editing out the two expletives that Mr. Park used. This is still considered a family-read newspaper, and it’s disappointing to find this in The Tribune. — Donna Epperson, Paso Robles

A: Our general practice is to avoid publishing obscenities, profanities and vulgarities unless they are part of direct quotations and there is a compelling reason for them. In this instance the two expletives you mention met that test: They were part of Allan Park’s direct quotes as he relayed his reactions to specific events involving O.J. Simpson. Park was a good storyteller, so using his own words, including the profanities, “helped aptly convey the tension that entered his life abruptly and unexpectedly,” Pemberton said.

Do you have a question about the newspaper, our website or our coverage? If so, please write me c/o The Tribune, P.O. Box 112, San Luis Obispo, CA 93406-0112, or email me at sduerr@thetribunenews.com. Follow me on Twitter @SandraDuerr.

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