This week I stopped to contemplate what type of information is truly newsworthy. As it turns out, there are far more timely articles on East Oahu every week than I first surmised. Some items, however, were less news and more voyeurism: where individual personal anguish was left out for public consumption with little community benefit or moral to be gleaned. Items fitting this description include a woman living in East Oahu held for credit card fraud, a fire caused by a faulty surge protector and a near drowning poolside.
Collectively, if there were a spate of fraud crimes, if there was a shipment of faulty surge protectors, or if pool monitoring had somehow become lax in our society, an argument for public knowledge and vigilance could be made. That, however, wasn’t the impression I was left with in reading the articles. Rather, these incidents seemed more isolated, and in some cases, simply unfortunate.
What brought the issue of newsworthiness to my mind were recent accidents occurring along Kalanianaole Highway. On Friday, June 19, a woman crossing the contraflow lane was killed by a driver distracted by an earlier accident on the same road. For anyone leaving the house that morning to get to work, the traffic was without a doubt, newsworthy.
What is less newsworthy would be the residence of the distracted driver or her name. The story would be just as useful without those pieces of information. Likewise for the name and residence of the man who ran over the woman after she had been hit by the first driver. To be honest, as much as I am curious about these details, they really aren’t the essence of the story. Really, important factors are:
Traffic was seriously backed up on Friday morning. The alternate route around Waimanalo might be faster for those East of Aina Haina. Eastbound traffic was being turned around at the end of the H1 freeway until investigators had finished their work.
- It is important for drivers to concentrate on the road in front of them, even when there may be distractions to the side of them.
As for the jogger who was killed, a later article by the Star-Advertiser identified her as a community member and loving family woman. The printed eulogy put a face behind the story and gave it the humanity it needed to touch us personally.
My point here, is really this: The internet is permanent. Even deleted items can be retrieved. As citizens we need to put ourselves in the shoes of each of the individuals being reported on. The need for the public to know must always be balanced by a reasonable right to privacy.
Writing this post will serve as reminder about what is important and what is not. It is a contract to me from me. Moving forward, I hope to produce weekly reports akin to those from The Week, but for a local audience. (The Week is a periodical that takes reported stories, condenses synthesizes them for the most relevant information.)