News From Terre Haute, Indiana

September 21, 2007

Editor's Note: More and better police news? It could happen

By Max Jones

TERRE HAUTE — Can the Tribune-Star help residents of 12 Points and surrounding areas get a better handle on crime in their neighborhoods? Those who attended a public meeting Monday night at the Maple Avenue United Methodist Church sure think so.

During the meeting, which was billed as an organizational meeting for a neighborhood watch program, at least one resident was critical of the newspaper’s content, or lack thereof, and suggested there should be more police reports in the daily edition so residents would know if there had been a rash of burglaries or vandalism in their neighborhood.

Terre Haute Police Chief George Ralston agreed, saying he would also like to see more local police news published daily. A detailed list of incidents is compiled by the police department each day. That list is made available to the media, the chief explained, but “it’s never published.”

A reporter is assigned each day to visit or contact local law-enforcement agencies to gather police news, including reviewing the “blotter” to which Ralston referred. The reporter primarily looks for felony arrests, traffic accidents that involve injuries, or other incidents deemed newsworthy to our general readership, such as robberies, assaults, major thefts, etc.

We do not publish the entire blotter, which can be quite lengthy. Nor do we currently glean items from that list for publication in an abridged list. We are, however, willing to review and reconsider that practice.

The speaker at the 12 Points meeting, as well as Chief Ralston, are absolutely right in their view that police blotter information can be quite valuable to newspaper readers. Assistant Editor Susan Duncan contacted Chief Ralston and she and I have arranged a meeting with the chief for Oct. 2 to discuss the issue of enhanced coverage of police news in your Tribune-Star, both in print and online.

As a result, we hope to come up with new ideas and options for presenting police news. We will then invite readers to review those options and assess their value. Specifically, a “coffee with the editors” in the 12 Points area will be scheduled in which readers will be asked to join us for a discussion about their newspaper and how we can better serve their needs as readers and citizens.

More information about this meeting will be forthcoming. Stay tuned.

• • •

On Friday, Sept. 14, the Tribune-Star published a photograph of Indiana State University President Lloyd Benjamin delivering his fall address on campus.

The photo contained regrettable content that discerning readers could conclude was intended to make light of the president or hold him up to ridicule.

Publication of that photograph represented an unfortunate lapse in judgment by the newspaper. I have written a personal apology to President Benjamin for this lapse. Today, I also apologize to our readers. You should expect more from your newspaper and we will strive to prevent any future breach of journalistic standards.

• • •

A letter published in Readers’ Forum following the recent downtown blues festival complained that the event featured no local talent.

That letter prompted life-long Terre Haute resident Larry Long to call me and point out that his band — Boondocks Blues — opened the festival. Not only is Long a member of the band and a talented local musician, he tends to most of the bands bookings and business.

While other members of the band were from outside the area, he wanted readers to know that the local music scene was indeed represented by his presence.



Max Jones can be reached via

e-mail at max.jones@tribstar.com, or by phone at (812) 231-4336.