I saw a dead body in the road on my Monday morning commute this week. Actually, I saw the body covered by a sheet as a dozen or more Sheriff’s deputies milled about, taking measurements and investigating what was obviously a fatal accident. It was a sobering sight.
A couple days passed and I see this story in the local newspaper. (It was out of our Half Moon Bay Review coverage area.)
The story is pretty standard, though the writer went the extra mile finding colleagues and neighbors of the man who died as he attempted to ride his bike through heavy morning traffic.
The reason I mention the incident here at all is the third paragraph of that news story:
The driver (who struck the bicyclist) remained at the scene. His name has been released by the CHP, but given that he is not a public figure, the Palo Alto Weekly will not be publishing his name unless criminal charges or a civil suit are filed.
What do we think of that?
There was a time when I would have said that was a cop out. The cops released the name. It’s public record. Give it to the public. I guess my view has evolved through the years. I now think the Palo Alto Weekly’s decision not to name the driver is perfectly defensible. Frankly, so too would be ID’ing the driver. …
As you know, we live in a world where our past follows us forever. Not so long ago, your face might have appeared in the local newspaper and disappeared a week later. Suffice to say, most people weren’t combing newspaper morgues looking to see whether you’d ever been involved in a traffic accident. Now, however, a simple Google search will turn up every mention of your name over the past 20 years or more. If you commit a crime, so be it. But what if you were simply involved in an accident that wasn’t your fault?
This is a tricky question and definitive answers are hard to find. By the way, I might run that name if it ends up all over the television news and in other local newspapers. At some point it doesn’t make sense to ignore information that is ubiquitous.
So I am sort-of on the fence on this one. What do you think?