Looking Back note included sensitive information

Brian McLean
Posted 1/16/19

For the past few months, I’ve been hearing from readers about their interest in the Looking Back column that has appeared in previous editions of The Leader. It’s an important part of …

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Looking Back note included sensitive information


For the past few months, I’ve been hearing from readers about their interest in the Looking Back column that has appeared in previous editions of The Leader. It’s an important part of local history, and it’s fun to see the writing style along with what was considered news 30, 60 and 100 years ago.

We brought that information back into the paper on Jan. 9, and while the intent was in the right place, last week’s column contained some hurtful imagery and brought back memories from 30 years ago that should not have appeared in print today.

At the time, The Leader covered the death of a local man and included a description of how he died, his home address, and how his body was recovered. Generally speaking, those were facts in the case, and they were all published in the newspaper. Such instances rarely would be covered today because of the nature of the man’s death.

At the beginning of each Looking Back column, we include a disclaimer as an editor’s note that reads: The following information is taken directly from The Leader on the dates given. Information is presented today as it was at the time.

Therefore, the subject matter from the past isn’t edited when it’s published today, both to preserve history and to provide context in the language with which it was written.

What appeared in last week’s paper was the same content from the man’s death in 1989. But it was insensitive to publish it again and potentially reopen emotional wounds, even if it was factually correct.

We should have chosen another event from 1989 to highlight.

License plate light out

As I was driving back to the office Jan. 11 after the Chimacum High School basketball games, I had to pull over for a Port Townsend police officer who turned on his lights and informed me I had a burned out license plate light.

It was a Friday night downtown, just before 10 p.m., and I’m sure the officer was making sure the roads were safe by checking to see if drivers had been drinking. Or if they had warrants out for their arrest.

There have been DUI emphasis patrols throughout Washington State Patrol’s District 8, which includes Jefferson, Clallam, Kitsap and Mason counties. And while the Port Townsend police officer wasn’t representing the state patrol, he was doing his part when he noticed something wrong with my vehicle.

I was a bit embarrassed when I had to scramble to find my registration paperwork, and I realize it was suspicious when my truck’s old license plates were spotted on the floor of the passenger side. But everything was in order, I’d only been drinking the Diet Coke I’d ordered from McDonald’s just 10 minutes earlier, and after he checked to make sure everything I presented was legit, the officer only wanted to clarify the information on my driver’s license was current.

It must have looked odd. I still had my press pass around my neck, a camera with a large lens in the front passenger seat. I asked for permission to grab my phone out of my fast food bag because that’s where I put it to keep myself from using it after I went through the drive-thru line at the restaurant.

The officer asked me to look into getting a new light for my rear license plate, and then he let me go. I drove the final block and a half to The Leader and called my wife to explain how my phone ended up in a McDonald’s bag.

I’ll take the license plate light to go, please.


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