The story in Wednesday’s Manteca Bulletin about a fight at a weekend party, which reportedly involved an off-duty Manteca police officer and his high-school-senior son, ended with the following paragraph:
“The name of the officer or the other people involved are not being used as they have not so far been charged, arrested, cited, or a complaint filed against them. It is the same policy the Bulletin uses when non-officers are involved.”
I think that’s self-explanatory.
But that apparently did not register to some readers who questioned why certain names were omitted from the story, and why only the names of some of the victims were mentioned.
“You wrote an awesome article and it was really good except for the fact that you didn’t put the police officer’s name, his son’s name and anybody else in there. You included every name that was there but them. I definitely didn’t think that was fair.... And I tell you what, it’s definitely starting to become a problem.”
The caller, who did not identify himself nor left a telephone number, also accused the Bulletin of being biased toward the police and “in fear” of the city’s police department.
“I don’t know if the city’s paper is in fear of the City of Manteca Police Department, but I think it would have been proper for you to ...put the names of all the people who were involved and not just the victims’ in this situation because, obviously, there’s a situation here and people don’t know their rights.”
The caller was referring to the part of the story, which had Public Information Officer Rex Osborn informing the Bulletin that no investigation has been launched on the off-duty officer’s actions at the party, and on his son’s involvement in the altercation, because none of the alleged victims have filed a complaint with the police.
The anonymous caller went on to say, “If I was (sic) you, I’d write another article and I’d go ahead and include that officer’s name and his kid’s (name). I wouldn’t be trying to hide their names and give them that much respect because, I tell you what, I’ve seen a lot of articles in the Manteca Bulletin — I’ve lived in town for over 30 years — and I have seen everybody and anybody’s name ran through the paper. But when it comes to the police officers, for some reason, you guys always hold that information out. ...I live in Manteca, I’m a homeowner, and I tell you, it just kills me to sit here and we can’t even put out the people’s names involved. Just write a little bit more of an honest article and not just so much in favor of the police department.”
Another reader said they were “just curious to know” if the Bulletin “(knew) more about this story.” Or, “are the cops telling you what not to report?”
As the reporter who did the interviews and wrote the story, I can honestly and categorically state that the Manteca police did not have any say whatsoever in the writing of the story. The story was purely based on information gathered from the people interviewed with no embellishments.
The first story I filed actually had the name of the off-duty officer. But Managing Editor Dennis Wyatt and I decided that since neither the officer nor his son have been charged with any wrongdoing; it would not be fair to mention their names. We would have done the same thing if the person concerned was not a police officer.
However, the fact the names of the off-duty officer and his son, as well as those of other people including those who did not have anything to do with the altercation such as the woman for whom the going-away party was given, were not included in the story does show that this reporter had more information about the incident. But there was really no point in printing the names of the innocent people. And, as far as the names of the off-duty officer and his son are concerned, these will eventually all come to light once the complaints are filed with the police department. And when that happens, there will definitely be follow-up stories regarding this incident. There really is no point in sensationalizing the story when there is nothing to sensationalize.