The seen of the crime

Whether it’s “Sirens” in The Malibu Times or MSN’s “Sheriff’s Report,” both Malibu newspapers consistently exclude vital information about local crime and other news of serious community concern. Withholding this information threatens the public welfare. It makes such coverage much less relevant to the vast majority of readers. It also makes for a much lower standard of journalism.

Every community needs good crime coverage, and not just to stay informed. By refusing to publish the details, both newspapers make it much harder for the public to come forward with information which might help local authorities. While Malibu fortunately has little serious crime, many such crimes go unresolved because authorities need information which only the public can provide. Unfortunately, without the details we readers are prevented from doing more to help.

For instance, it’s just not enough for us to know that the night manager and employee of a “mid-Malibu” or “Cross Creek” restaurant were attacked on May 29. If you’d told us which restaurant, someone who might have been driving by might be able to provide a suspect’s description or license number.

That’s why stripping stories of their details also strips them of much of their relevance. We’re justifiably concerned when these crimes occur, but it’s difficult to gauge that concern without more detailed information. When you give us more about who was involved, you also give us a chance to express our concern: the people who work and/or live here are the same people we all run into every day.

We’re also told that the basics of journalism are “who, what, where, when, and why.” We may not always know why, but when you withhold the names we never really know the “who.” You may tell us what happened or when, but without an address you’re not really giving us the “where.”

This policy can also blind a publication to the some of the real stories this community is all about. Witness the recent tragic double suicide of two local surfers. More than a month after both newspapers provided the limited, sketchy details, the L.A. Times came out with a much more moving, detailed examination of who these men were and what caused them to take their lives.

Obviously, we can’t expect either local paper to compete against a publication with all the resources of an L.A. Times. We readers are also fortunate that both newspapers are as good as they are. But as an avid reader, I ask the editors of both newspapers to reconsider this policy and determine whether they could do an even better job of serving this community.

Scott Tallal

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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