The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Information can promote healing, increase awareness

 

September 17, 2017



CLOVIS — On Friday, our newspaper published audio recordings of 911 calls placed to Clovis Police dispatchers during the horrific shootings at our city library on Aug. 28.

As one might expect, those calls were emotional and haunting.

Readers responded with myriad opinions, as they did with our decision to publish court records connected to the deadly shootings and arrest of 16-year-old Nathaniel Jouett weeks earlier.

We have been praised, criticized and analyzed, which is appropriate.

Some readers thanked us for doing our jobs. Some said we’re sensationalizing a tragedy.

An assistant district attorney is among critics. Kristen Beltran wrote on her Facebook page that Clovis police released information because they were forced to do so by media like us.

“This has not been an easy decision for the PD because, unlike the paper, they believe in protecting our victims and our community so they don’t have to see such a traumatizing video.”

Beltran has gotten a little ahead of herself; to our knowledge, police have not released any video of the shootings. We have not published any video of the shootings. That might happen in the coming days — we won’t decide until we actually see video from the library — but either way Beltran is entitled to her opinion and we appreciate that she cares about the victims of this horrific crime.

We care also, which is why we’ve devoted so much space to the tragedy and will continue coverage until Jouett’s criminal case concludes.

The public records associated with the shooting are a product of a free society and an open court system. They are available to everyone — police, prosecutors, defense attorneys, victims, family members of victims, and anybody else, including profiteers.

They can be used for exploitation, but also to bring greater awareness to the evil in the world and to inspire change and to see firsthand how something that you’d never expect to happen here … happened here.

With so much information, maybe, just maybe, we can prevent it from happening again. Or at least we can better repair the damage and promote healing.

We understand not everyone agrees with that philosophy.

We also understand how competition among media doesn’t always contribute to the stated goal of informing the public.

We’re working to keep our eyes on the ball.

One example:

On Sept. 5, we filed a formal request with the city of Clovis for release of the 911 calls and video.

The city acknowledged receipt of the request almost immediately.

On Sept. 8, we were contacted by KVII-TV in Amarillo and asked to assist in their search for 911 calls and video since they were not familiar with New Mexico’s public records laws. We provided their associate with a copy of our request and told her how we submitted it.

On Thursday, the KVII-TV associate contacted us again. She had received an email from Police Capt. Roman Romero informing her the 911 calls were available for release. She asked if we could simply forward our copy to her electronically.

Our initial reaction was anger — since we did not have a copy. The city had not notified us about the availability of the records.

On overnight reflection, we realized the city’s helping one media outlet over others should not interrupt the flow of information.

So first thing Friday morning, we again requested the 911 calls from the city, thanked our sister media for letting us know they were available, then helped KVII do its job by sharing the information.

Sometimes we have to remind ourselves this isn’t about getting a “scoop” on our competition, selling newspapers or collecting website page views as our critics claim. This is about providing information to as many people as possible about one of the worst things that’s ever happened in our community.

We believe information is the best tool we have for taking care of each other.

Unsigned editorials are the opinion of the Clovis Media Inc.’s editorial board, which consists of Publisher Rob Langrell and Editor David Stevens.

 
 

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