Wick Communications

Be careful what you send

In Editing on 22 Aug 2013 at 1:07 pm


One of our fine reporters was out of the office last week. That meant that I had the privilege of rifling through his email so that we didn’t miss out on the police blotter or anything else that came through his virtual transom while he was out of the mix.

That’s how I noticed the email from an attorney named Michael Haddid.

Haddid is representing a local guy who is suing the U.S. government after being tased by a National Park Service ranger. It’s been an interesting an ongoing story for us at the Half Moon Bay Review. The lawyer was filing for summary judgment in the case and that was news.

I set about remembering how to dial up federal court documents using Pacer and getting on the horn with the lawyer. As I combed through those court records, I came across a pair of emails, sent from the Taser-happy ranger to a colleague. Suffice to say, I’m sure she never intended those emails to be printed in the newspaper. She drops the “f” bomb four times in six paragraphs and “spineless” and “pathetic” are the nicest things she calls her supervisor in the emails.

There are two points I want to make about the experience.

  1. There but for the grace of god go I. All of us have probably sent email – either through our work or personal accounts – that we would not like to see in a federal court file. The ranger’s emails reminded me that my own can be subpoenaed. It should go without saying that you must remain professional at all times when using your Wick company email addresses. That’s a no-brainer. I would suggest you consider all written correspondence potentially public. …
  2. Don’t release emails like this for purely prurient reasons. I decided against reprinting the emails verbatim or attaching them to our online story. For one thing, they are profane and we don’t normally print stuff like that in our paper. The story and the evidence at hand just wasn’t important enough to break our normal policy. Beyond that, I just found them needlessly demeaning. I didn’t name the recipient of the emails. He hadn’t been accused of any wrongdoing. Instead I paraphrased them like this:

… The documents also include a few profanity-laced emails sent on Aug. 1, 2012, sent from (the ranger) to a colleague at the park service. In them, she chides Chief Ranger Kevin Cochary for not telling her sooner that the district attorney and U.S. Attorney’s Office had declined to prosecute (the man she tased.)

That paragraph doesn’t appear till the jump page.

Did I underplay the incendiary emails? Possibly. I could be convinced of that. But I think that is a lesser crime than overplaying them.



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