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Editor column: Challenges of breaking news, and changing information

Published May 25, 2013 4:27 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A colleague remarked last week that what we do isn't science. He was referring to making decisions as news breaks, details emerge and we learn more of the truth.

Naming juveniles who have been accused of crimes has been a topic of discussion in our newsroom — and in this column — in recent days and weeks, what with the death of soccer referee Ricardo Portillo after allegedly being punched by a 17-year-old player.

The Salt Lake Tribune has chosen to not identify the player as his case remains in juvenile court. The policy is based on the premise that someone who is not yet an adult deserves a degree of protection for making mistakes that may be, at least in part, the result of their immaturity and will affect them for the rest of their lives. If the teenager is certified as an adult for trial, we will name him.

Our own policy placed us in a problematic position when news broke Wednesday night that two young boys were found murdered in their West Point home, and their brother was missing.

Taking the lead from police, we published online that night and in print the next morning the name and photograph of the 15-year-old, who initially was thought to possibly be in danger but who had been found by midnight. Editors discussed whether or not to publish the identifying information and decided the potential benefits (finding the boy) outweighed the possible downside (that he was involved in the crime).

Then the story changed. Police identified him as the primary suspect in the homicide Thursday morning. We removed his photograph and name from our online coverage. His name does not appear in Friday's print story. We explained to readers that we had identified the boy in earlier stories, as he initially was the subject of a missing-person investigation by police.

We realize by doing this we are trying to — pick your cliché — unring the bell, put the genie back in the bottle. The boy's name is out there. Other news media will continue to name him, and his identity likely remains somewhere in cyberspace, attached to a Tribune story, and it is in Thursday's print edition.

But we've done the best we can to follow a policy we believe is sound. Juveniles are a special case and deserving of special consideration. They are still children. As in the case of the soccer player, if the courts decide the 15-year-old will be tried as an adult, we will follow suit and publish his name.

No, this isn't science.

Awards • Spring is contest season for journalists, and Tribune reporters, photographers and editors are getting their share and more of prizes. In the Utah Press Association awards, handed out in March, The Tribune took 13 first-place awards, 29 awards overall and swept all awards in five categories: general news, investigative reporting, feature reporting, sports reporting and sports columns. The newspaper also took the top award for general excellence.

More recently, The Tribune excelled in the regional Top of the Rockies and Best of the West contests, which include newspapers from throughout the West.

In Top of the Rockies, our website, sltrib.com, took the general excellence award. We took first place for our news reporting, health care reporting, arts and entertainment criticism and reporting, spot news photography, humor columns, general and enterprise business reporting. We swept first, second and third in enterprise reporting on legal issues. Our designers took first places for their front pages, feature pages and sports pages.

In Best of the West, we took the top awards in growth and environment reporting, arts and entertainment writing and editorial cartooning.

Awards are nice, particularly when the competition includes newsrooms from throughout the region, many larger than ours. It's a chance to reflect on a job well done. But we know the real judge is you, readers of The Salt Lake Tribune.

Terry Orme is a Tribune managing editor. Reach him at orme@sltrib.com. Top of the Rockies

Newspapers from Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico

1st place • Tribune staff, general website excellence; Tribune staff, front page design; Jenna Busey, single page design; David Montero, Kimball Bennion, news reporting; Kirsten Stewart, Scott Sommerdorf, health general reporting; Nate Carlisle, Cimaron Neugebauer, legal enterprise reporting; Aaron Falk, legal general reporting; Sean P. Means, arts and entertainment criticism; Ben Fulton, arts and entertainment story; Tribune staff, business enterprise reporting; Tony Semerad, business general reporting; Robert Kirby, personal/humor column; Rudy Mesicek, feature page design; Al Hartmann, spot news photography

2nd place • Tribune staff, breaking news; Kirsten Stewart, health enterprise reporting; Brandon Loomis, environmental enterprise reporting; Brooke Adams and Melinda Rogers, legal enterprise reporting; Matt Canham, Peggy Fletcher Stack, Lee Davidson, politics enterprise reporting; Scott D. Pierce, arts and entertainment criticism; Tribune staff, business enterprise reporting; Kurt Kragthorpe, sports column; Francisco Kjolseth, feature page design

3rd place • Heather May, Julia Lyon, Melinda Rogers, health enterprise reporting; Aaron Falk, legal enterprise reporting; Matt Canham, politics enterprise reporting; Brooke Adams, news reporting; Derek P. Jensen and Dawn House, business general reporting; Bill Oram, sports general reporting; Peg McEntee, news column; Francisco Kjolseth, news photography —

Best of the West

Newspapers from throughout the Western U.S.

1st place • Brandon Loomis, growth and environment reporting; Ben Fulton, arts and entertainment writing; Pat Bagley, editorial cartooning

2nd place • Michael Nakoryakov and Dave Noyce, page design

3rd place • Lisa Schencker, Kyle Goon and Melinda Rogers, sports reporting