Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Just Because You Can, Doesn't Mean You Should
I know you've heard me rant plenty about the Sacramento Bee and their predilection for posting more information than is maybe necessary. (*ahem*State Worker Salary Database*ahem*)
I know, I know: There are plenty of things out there that are public information and the People of California have a "right" to know.
Most information that is public record is obtainable from the record's source.
The average person can't be assed to hunt it down, so it's not usually a big issue.
But if you wiggle the information under the nose of the general public, it becomes a totally different issue.
Take, for example, publishing the identity of a local law enforcement informant.
Now, let me make something clear before I go any further:
The Sacramento County District Attorney's Office made the decision to put the informant on the stand in a Superior Court case. Court records are public records. Any yaywho can contact the court and get copies of the record in any case. Court cases are also, usually, public. Any of those same yaywhos can go on down and sit in on a trial.
The Sacramento County District Attorney's Office made the decision that his testimony in this case was so crucial to their case that it outweighed maintaining the secrecy of his identity.
To reiterate: Sac County DA put the informant on the stand, knowing it would make his identity public; once informant testified, his identity became a matter of public record.
The problem I have is that there is a very big difference between something being a matter of public record as on file with the Superior Court, and that same information being published to an estimated 707,000 Sunday readers. For the print version.
Never mind how many people may have read it online.
Any information whore (not that I know anyone like that, mind you) can tell you that it's pretty easy to get information about person if you're determined enough and have the right identification.
Think I'm kidding?
This morning, "one or more gunmen" opened fire on the former house of the informant (his grandparents house)(yes, they were home at the time)(thankfully, nobody was hurt).
When asked, Sacramento Police spokesman Sgt. Norm Leong said "Although we can't tie the shooting directly to that, we certainly believe it did not help that his name was exposed."
I know that the Sacramento Bee is scrambling for the most sensational news it can publish because it, along with countless others, is tanking hard.
Just because you can doesn't mean you should.
And maybe y'all need to take two minutes and read this. Then sit down and think about that for awhile.
When you're done, why don't you spend a few more minutes thinking about how you would feel if your grandparent's house was getting shot at in the middle of the night because you tried to help make your town a safer place to live.
And then let me know if you really think it's important to post everything, just because you can.