Tonawanda News — Google has become the window into the world outside our physical environs. It bears questioning, then, whether we want it to be as open and transparent as the metaphor implies or whether we want the ability to leave some of our less wholesome or more embarrassing moments in the past, where we would prefer they remain.
It's a question we've wrestled with here at the Tonawanda News and one newspapers and responsible Internet news outlets have been forced to address in some form or other.
Hardly a week goes by in this newsroom when we aren't contacted by someone who has been arrested, listed in our police blotter (sometimes years ago) and whose transgression now pops up when anyone from a blind date to a potential employer types their name in a website so ubiquitous its name is now a verb.
I sympathize, to a point, with people in this situation. The vast majority of arrests listed in our police blotter do not result in a criminal conviction. Most are relatively minor offenses. That means most people live a law-abiding life thereafter and the charges are dropped. Sometimes — most times, actually — paying your debt to society simply means not doing the bad thing again.
We must also acknowledge our own limitations as a media outlet. We publish arrests but given the drawn out nature of the court proceedings that follow we do not publish the court's eventual disposition as a matter of course. It would take the reporters here virtually all day to track down the various ends to every arrest listed in previous blotters. Practically speaking, it would be impossible.
To address this point locally, last year our newsroom amended our policy on police reports on our website. If someone who's been arrested would like us to append the arrest brief with a note about the case's disposition (usually that the charges were dismissed), we will do so if the person provides us with court documentation proving it.