Monday, June 11, 2012

Editor makes sure her readers know that she was charged with DUI in another county

Terri Likens of the Roane County News in Tennessee is not the first newspaper editor to publish a prominent story about being charged with driving under the influence, but she is the first editor we know of (there are surely others) who did that about her arrest by a deputy sheriff in an adjoining county, where word of it might have been contained.

"I regularly talk to people who have ended up on the wrong side of the law and want to keep the incident out of the newspaper," Likens began her front-page column on May 2. "My answer is invariably a polite no-can-do. If the situation is a matter of our usual public record, it all goes in the paper. We make no exceptions."

Likens wrote that she couldn't give all the details, but "My blood-alcohol test was below the legal limit, and I respectfully and fully cooperated with everyone involved." She said the story was on Page One because "I can be considered a public figure," and "As someone whose newspaper has to publish the troubles of others, it is only fair that I have to publish my own, when circumstances warrant it."

Likens said she would plead not guilty and tell readers how the case turned out. She told us today what she will report in Friday's paper: "After the Cumberland County prosecutors reviewed the field test video, looked at the report and talked to the sheriff's deputy, the charge was dismissed on Thursday, June 7, cost to the state. It still cost me $1,200 in lawyers fees and bond, though." And she wanted us to tell you that she won the annual Max Heath Gold Star award for editors last month from Landmark Community Newspapers Inc. for day-to-day excellence in journalism: "The decision was made well before the DUI. But they did hold that up as an example of integrity during the presentation." A good punctuation mark, we think. (You can quote me in your column, Terri.)

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