News and Tribune

Columns

November 29, 2012

VAN HOY: The reason for running a story

The editorial staff at the News and Tribune — along with newspapers and other media outlets around the world — face tough judgment decisions every day.

There are choices on when to publish a story, both in print and at newsandtribune.com, and where to publish, such as inside or on the front page; and if on the front, where at?

Sometimes, there is discussion on whether a news tip or subject is even a story worthy of publication at all. That decision could be based on the perceived news value of the story or whether enough sources and facts are known for publication.

There are also decisions to be made once it’s determined that a story will be published.

For instance, the newspaper takes care to protect the identity of children who are victims in abuse cases. We try to omit identifying factors, such as not noting a direct relation to an accused offender if the victim is a minor.

There also has been at least one instance where we decided against publishing the health reason that forced an area high school athlete to not participate in sports that season, because that person was a minor.

That brings me to a story published earlier this week on our sports section front page about former Jeffersonville High School basketball standout Brooke Valentine taking a leave of absence from the University of Southern Indiana hoops team because she is pregnant.

To be clear, the News and Tribune did not write this story. We reprinted a story first published by the Evansville Courier & Press — a paper that covers USI and its athletic teams regularly.

A couple of readers have asked why we would publish a story about a college athlete being pregnant and missing time. One even asked if we would write the same story if the subject was a male under the same circumstances.

The answer: Yes. If a male college athlete of local interest had taken a leave from his team because he was a new or prospective father — and that detail was revealed — we would report it as such.

Valentine’s coach, Rick Stein, revealed the reason for Valentine’s absence from the team to the Evansville paper and it then, in my opinion, became newsworthy to print. Readers now know the reason Valentine — a key member of the USI team — will not be participating the rest of the season. Also, Valentine is an adult, not a minor, and a scholarship athlete at a state-supported university.

Of course, I wish Valentine a healthy pregnancy and baby, and hopefully a successful return to basketball. But that has nothing to do with a decision on whether or not to run an article such as this. It was a simple story about a local athlete not being able to play for a specific reason, and that reason was revealed by her school.

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