Community deserves to see good and bad

Published 5:56 pm Friday, March 8, 2019

In the last two weeks alone, the front page of The LaGrange Daily News and The Valley Times-News have featured a story on a violent crime on eight different occasions, related to five separate, unfortunate events.

A 15-year-old was shot in West Point on Feb. 24 and an 18-year-old was arrested and charged with attempted murder in that case on Wednesday of this week; two Hogansville men were arrested for an unrelated murder on Feb. 25; two LaGrange men, one a 17-year-old, have been arrested in the last week for another murder that took place in early February; a LaGrange woman was arrested and charged with aggravated assault after stabbing her boyfriend on Wednesday of this week; and shots were fired into a residence in LaGrange on Feb. 27.

Eight stories related to two separate deaths, two additional shootings and a stabbing. Three of these stories dealt directly with individuals who have not yet seen their 20th birthday.

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These stories are simultaneously necessary and heartbreaking to report. The irreparable damage done in some of these cases, the violence doled out and the longstanding consequences that will follow, are all significant and serious. The young age of those accused of committing these crimes only works to exacerbate these realities.

Often, the newspaper staff hears subscribers and community members relate their desire for positive, uplifting community news to splash across the pages of our product.

I echo that desire.

Trust me when I say we would rather work on uplifting, community-improvement pieces, like the multiple stories we have published recently on the local volunteer efforts to provide supplies to those in Alabama affected by last weekend’s tornadoes, than the crime stories that have seemingly dominated recent headlines. Some media outlets may lick their chops at the prospect of reporting on such stories, but we are not one of those.

Yet, we must. We have received some well-intentioned questions come our way in the past two weeks, asking why we continue to run stories of this nature.

We have also received feedback from those who believe such news stories can have a negative impact on potential business development in the area, as prospective companies often look to an area’s news prior to investing. Those concerns are well-received.

The response to this remains simple and in line with our mission as a community news organization. Our citizens have a right to know what is going on in their community, and we have an obligation to tell them. Good and bad. The reality is bad news is still news, and we must report on it as our community deserves the whole truth, all the time.

An additional note. I have had the pleasure to get to know LaGrange Police Chief Lou Dekmar, Troup County Sheriff James Woodruff and Hogansville Police Chief Brian Harr well since moving to LaGrange, and consider all three friends. I have not had the chance to meet new West Point Police Chief Donald Britt, but hope to soon.

All are experienced law enforcement professionals who are deeply invested in the areas they serve.

We are fortunate to have these leaders in charge of our law enforcement entities, and objective data shows a reduction in major crime statistics across Troup County over the last decade, thus the rash of these recent crimes is not due to a failure by law enforcement, but are attributable to other factors outside their control.

You have my pledge we will work hard to focus on the real truth about our community — that this is a wonderful place to live and work, filled with kind and compassionate people who are working hard to make  Troup County a safe and enjoyable place to live.