Daily Bread for 12.11.22: A Bad News Practice Lingers Where It Shouldn’t

Good morning.

Sunday in Whitewater will be cloudy with a high of 38. Sunrise is 7:16 AM and sunset 4:20 PM for 9h 04m 53s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 89.8% of its visible disk illuminated.

 On this day in 1901, the Morris Pratt Institute is incorporated:

On this date spiritual leader Morris Pratt gained incorporation for his school of spiritualism located in Whitewater, Wisconsin. Many people of this time embraced spiritualism to try to reach friends and family who had died in the Civil War. As a result, Whitewater became known as the “mecca of modern spiritualism.” Pratt built his institute in 1888, which was initially used as a meeting place for public seances. Pratt decided to turn his institution into an educational school for spiritualists, focusing on science, literature, morality, and communication, as well as spiritualistic instruction. The institute was closed for a few years during the Depression, and then in 1977 relocated to Waukesha, where it remains one of the few institutes in the world that is dedicated to the study of spiritualism. [Source: Wisconsin Saints and Sinners by Fred L. Holmes]

Longtime readers know that I am not, and have never claimed to be, a journalist. Journalists are journalists. Indeed, this libertarian blogger has by design and practice kept this a general interest blog. If I had wanted FREE WHITEWATER to have a different focus, then FW would have had a different focus. (It’s possible, perhaps probable, that some work here in Twenty Twenty-Three will take a more profession-specific cast, as some topics will dictate that approach.)      

What I am, however, is someone from a newspaper, magazine, journal, and book-reading family. I’ve occasionally been critical of newspaper coverage because, quite candidly, much newspaper coverage has declined over the years. In our area, we have been a veritable news desert for many years, until the arrival about two years ago of nearby of online news site

(A few words about public officials of the city and school district: if they cannot manage a proper online news site, then they need either to improve quickly or resign their positions. This is an American city with a university campus — if officials cannot or will not engage with a professional news site, they are unsuited to office. People who are afflicted, disabled, or disadvantaged deserve care and support. Public officeholders, by contrast, wield the power of government and so should either meet a high standard or return to private life.)  

Not as a journalist, but as a newspaper reader, one can see that the standard for publishing information about defendants has changed over time. It was once common everywhere to publish mug shots, and in some places to publish full addresses for mere defendants (that is, those accused but not convicted). The publishing of full addresses was never as common as the publishing of mug shots, by the way. 

Standards evolve, and mug shots have become disfavored, with publishing presumed-innocent-until-convicted defendants’ full addresses — never as common as mug shots — even less common now. (The obvious reason to avoid publishing a full address — rather than a location, such as a neighborhood or city block, is to limit the risk of reprisals against a presumed-innocent-until-convicted defendant.)

It’s lawful to publish defendants’ mug shots or full addresses, but it is no less small-minded for doing so.

Then and now, these efforts have a gawker’s sheen about them, and in the digital era desperate newspapers use them as clickbait. (The Lake Geneva Regional News, a Lee Enterprises paper, publishes full addresses, but then anyone who follows Lee would know that its flagship Wisconsin State Journal has bled three waves of serious journalists over the last fifteen years. Lee has not descended to a Sham Wow! level of attention-seeking, but it’s getting there. The APG newspapers — Janesville Gazette and Daily Jefferson County Union — are now less interesting than a Sham Wow commercial.) 

This libertarian blogger will never make the mistake of other sites by publishing a presumed-innocent-until-convicted defendant’s full address.

One needn’t stoop low. 

 Is Goat Yoga Just a Fad?:

Oh, please — everyone knows only cat yoga is genuine:

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