Full circle is sometimes half

Our job as reporters is to report the news.

I think that we do a fine job covering breaking news, whether that is when an investigation is launched or when the day a murder occurs. But following the story after that, well, that is when reporters sometimes fall short. And we certainly have our reasons: other stories break, investigations get held up, and news tips dry up.

This is a theme that has come up several times this week, including this comment by Pico Rivera Mayor Ron Beilke.

Dear Jennifer,

The Whittier Daily News did a great job covering the incident with my son and my two employees with front page stories and courtroom pictures. I did appreciate that the paper mentioned that no charges were filed against my son in the case, especially given Sheriffs discovered that he made two 911 phone calls reporting the person with the gun who was later convicted of the crime.

However, when charges were dropped against my two employees, I couldn’t help but notice that that information didn’t warrant a front page headline proclaiming that the mayor’s employees were cleared of all charges. In fact, no mention of that little fact was even made in this blog that I am responding to here. Of course, I knew all along that charges would be dropped once authorities had time to examine the evidence of the case.

It is unfortunate that stories are so obvioulsy slanted to sell papers and to create sensational headlines. I would hope that when you do report on incidents you at least give as much ink to clearing the names of individuals as you do when smearing them.

While the story did not make front page news, it was in the paper: 

Charges dropped against Pico Rivera mayor’s employees

San Gabriel Valley Tribune (West Covina, CA) – July 15, 2008
Author/Byline: Sandra T. Molina
Section: Breaking
WHITTIER – Sonny Anthony Costello was sent to the early disposition program Monday by a Whittier Superior Court judge, in the case where a reserve deputy’s 45-caliber gun and vehicle was stolen.

The program allows for parole and probation officers to compile data and then make a recommendation to the district attorney’s office, said Olivia Rosales, deputy district attorney in charge of the Whittier D.A.’s office.

“If the judge, our office and the defense attorney agree on the recommendation, then it’s accepted and (Costello) serves his sentence,” she said. “If not, then he will return to the Whittier court for a preliminary hearing.”

The edp hearing is scheduled for July 23 at the Downey Superior Court.

Costello is still in the custody of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Two of the other four defendants in the case, Arlene, Cano, 19, and Lorraine Ochoa, 21 pled guilty to possession of stolen property and were sentenced to three years probation and work detail for Caltrans, Rosales said.

Charges were dropped against the final two defendants – Miguel Perez, 19, and Ivan De Jesus Marquez, 24. “There was not sufficient evidence against them,” Rosales said.

Perez and Marquez worked for Pico Rivera Mayor Ron Beilke at the time of their arrest last month. “Justice was served,” Beilke said Tuesday. “They went through the process and have been cleared.”

As far as it not being on the blog, that is an oversight on my part. Like many readers, stories slip past me, and the more news tips, comments and calls we get, the better the blog and paper will be.