Editorial: Why do we print court dispositions in the paper?

Published 8:50 pm Tuesday, March 19, 2024

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Every couple months we receive contact from someone in the public asking us why we print court dispositions.

The people usually wonder if they can keep their conviction out of the newspaper, or sometimes they call us years after the fact to see if they can have their listing removed.

Court dispositions are something newspapers have long published.

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Every newspaper has a different threshold for what levels of crimes get printed, and in the case of the Tribune, we do not run every disposition down to a simple speeding citation. We print all convictions where the financial obligation to the court is $180 or greater or where there is a conviction that results in jail time, probation or community service.

The Tribune receives a listing of the court dispositions each day from Freeborn County District Court administration, and then one of our staff goes through and identifies which will be printed based off of our threshold.

Aside from most juvenile actions, criminal charges are open to the public.

Sometimes we have to type up a co-worker or a friend’s name — or even a family member — who found themselves on the list.

Everyone knows that just because we work here doesn’t mean we get a free pass.

So why do we feel that strongly about running court dispositions in the newspaper?

In a nutshell we hope it will help educate the public on crimes happening in our community. While not every crime listed carries the same weight, we hope it will help people make decisions in their day-to-day life, whether it’s about who they will interact with, choose to hire or even where to live.

On the other hand, we hope that if people know these dispositions are printing in the newspaper, they will do what they can to avoid seeing their name in print. It’s something we call social incentive and hope it can act as a deterrent against crime.

If you know your neighbor, your family or your boss is going to eventually see your conviction, will you think twice before you take your actions?

Court dispositions also provide follow-through for crimes we may have originally reported on after they first happened but that did not get much attention otherwise. This lets the public know how the case turned out in the end or even if charges were dismissed.