Recently, I’ve been asked why the names of juveniles who have been charged by local law enforcement are published in Decorah Newspapers and also appear on our website:decorahnewspapers.com.

It’s a legitimate question, and I assume it was asked of all local media and not just the newspaper. At any rate, as editor, I think it deserves a response.

Basically, the names of juvenile offenders are made public in order to enhance deterrence and also protect victims’ rights.

There was a time in Iowa when the names of juveniles who had gotten into trouble could not be made public, but that changed in 1997 when the Iowa Code was amended to read:

NEW SUBSECTION. 4. Information pertaining to a child who is at least ten years of age and who is taken into custody for a delinquent act which would be a public offense is a public record and is not confidential under section 232.147.”

Other provisions of the same act in 1997 include Section 16 that changed the release of information from aggravated misdemeanors and felonies to all public offenses.

In 1998, the Legislature again confirmed the name of a minor involved in committing a public offense is not confidential. This time it was in the context of protecting victim rights:

915.25. Right to review complaint against juvenile

1. A complaint filed with the court or its designee pursuant to chapter 232 which alleges that a child who is at least 10 years of age has committed a delinquent act, which if committed by an adult would be a public offense, is a public record and shall not be confidential under section 232.147.

2. The court, its designee, or law enforcement officials are authorized to release the complaint, including the identity of the child named in the complaint.”

If memory serves, these changes in the Iowa Code were made in response to an increase in the number and severity of delinquent acts. By expanding the release of juvenile names to all public offenses, it seems the Legislature was attempting to hold juveniles accountable and deter criminal conduct.

Most would agree the tactic has produced results in terms of deterrence and some would argue, and rightfully so, that disclosure of the names makes parents more vigilant in their efforts to keep their sons or daughters out of trouble.

Don’t be mistaken, Decorah Newspapers takes no pleasure in publishing the name of a young person who has made a bad decision – didn’t we all? – but if it actually helps that juvenile, and the community, in the long run, then it is our responsibility to make that information known to the public.

That being said, it also is our duty to make sure we don’t “overplay” such stories with large headlines or sensationalistic writing.

Sometimes in this business doing what needs to be done is difficult, but rest assured, if it were my kid who had been arrested or charged, it would appear in the newspaper … period.

 

Bubba breaks the mold

While the stuffed shirts at Augusta National Golf Club may be cringing at having a self-taught, free spirit, down-home boy from the Florida panhandle as its Masters champion for the second time in the last three years, it couldn’t have come at a better time for the game of golf.

With the immensely popular Tiger Woods struggling to regain his “pre-infidelities” dominance on the links, and the inconsistent play of many of the other PGA tour stalwarts, the general public has become bored with watching the professionals tee it up every weekend.

And then along came Bubba Watson. Sporting a refreshing personality that definitely does not fit the uppity country club mode, Bubba has set the world of golf on its ear. He’s brought some joy and humor back to the game and his “let’s not take this too seriously” attitude is welcomed by those who can’t afford to join a fancy-schmancy club but enjoy a round of golf at their local municipal course.

Unlike the vast majority of PGA pros who have grown up as part of the country-club scene and received expert instruction from knowledgeable teachers, Bubba concocted his swing without anyone else’s help, and he obviously did a fine job of it.

A lanky lefthander, Bubba hits the ball a country mile and also has a splendid touch around the greens. A charming and humble man, he likes to have fun when he isn’t chasing Masters championships, and anyone who has not seen the two “Golf Boys” videos on YouTube should definitely check them out.

In true Bubba style, after all the ceremonies were finished Sunday night, the Watson family and some friends went out for a late-night snack. Did they go to the most expensive restaurant in Augusta? No way. That’s not Bubba. He picked up the tab at the Waffle House.

Keep swinging for the fences, Bubba. We love it.