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Readers take us to task

One thing troubles me about the beating we took in Sunday’s Tri-City Forum section.

In case you missed it, readers took us to task over our editorial position regarding allegations of sexual misconduct against teachers.

The response came mostly from educators, and it’s a good thing they can’t assign detention to editorial board members or we’d be scrubbing white boards until Thanksgiving break.

A week earlier, our editorial, Teacher scrutiny more important than privacy, argued that allegations against teachers be part of the public record, even when the charges can’t be substantiated.

We took the position that history doesn’t make a good case for leaving children’s safety solely in the hands of school administrators.

Then, we invited readers to respond. Check out letters to the editor to get an idea of how far wrong some of them think we are on this issue.

So, what’s troubling me?

It’s not that readers think we’re wrong. Readers tell us all the time what’s wrong with our editorials, and sometimes they’re even right.

But an underlying assumption running through the responses to our editorial on teachers is that every unsubstantiated allegation in the public record would end up making headlines.

What readers don’t see, of course, is what isn’t printed. Herald reporters are privy to unsubstantiated allegations all the time — including accusations against teachers — that never make it into print.

Even when we’re pretty sure charges are true, we don’t put them in our news columns without some corroboration.

There are a lot of good reasons to exercise caution before publishing something that will harm someone’s reputation. Trying not to portray an innocent person in a false light is one of them.

Do things go wrong sometime? Ask the Duke University lacrosse team.

But making charges of sexual misconduct against school teachers part of the public record would lead to far fewer articles than some imagine.

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