I’ve recently been asked about the code of ethics on my blog. When I started blogging, I’ll admit I didn’t have one. I figured I would blog about police reports and crime. I didn’t believe a story should be too anything (too personal, too taboo, too embarrassing) to blog about, and I still don’t. If it happens at UM and police officers are dispatched, students should know. I hate the idea of censoring myself.
Of course, public record and HIPPA laws protect the identities of minors, sexual assault victims, and hospital records. And even if they didn’t, for my own conscience, I would respect these scenarios.
I figured that was ethical enough. If records are public, then why shouldn’t I blog about them in all their juicy glory?
Then I began to feel bad (and received a lot of backlash) for the drunk students I was condemning by linking their drunk antics with their names. I was once a freshman, too. I then subjectively began to only use first names and the initial of the last name to refer to the student, but then again, sometimes I didn’t.
I used to think reporting the truth and trying my hardest to get it right (and then admitting when I get it wrong and apologizing) was enough. It isn’t. Now, I’m not about to hold myself to SPJ standards. I’m not The Miami Herald. But from now on, my blogs will not list the names of those busted for underage drinking. It’s technically not a crime, no one needs to be held to account. That’s not to say there isn’t a value in learning (even if it’s a purely entertaining one) about all the underage drinking and alcohol poisoning that happens at UM.
Pot possession and fake ids are crimes. They happen at UM. I don’t want to ruin anybody’s future by making their stupid mistakes Googleable. That’s not what I intend to do with my blog. At the same time, it’s also public record (all my blogs are). Either way, I’ve decided not to include their names either, unless they’ve been busted for the same crime before.
If a person is not guilty of a crime, their full name will appear in the blog. Sorry. It’s not personal, it’s public record.
And to set another record straight: If I do find myself written up on a police report it would be incredibly hypocritical to not blog about it. So I will, or better yet, let someone else blog about it and hold me to account. Until then, no, I have not been mentioned on a police report. Ever. That’s not to say I’ve never broken the law, I just haven’t been caught (yet). And if I ever do, readers, you all will be second to know (my lawyer being first).