By: Joe Strupp
In an unusual effort to curb a growing problem in its circulation area, The Daily Astorian in Astoria, Ore., will begin publishing this week the names of all those arrested for driving under the influence of intoxicants (DUI).
Adoption of this approach, used by relatively few newspapers, was requested by the Oregon State Police in the hope that the initiative will highlight the issue in Clatsop County, where arrests for the offense have increased by 18% in the past two years.
Stephen Forrester, editor and publisher, told E&P that the paper recognizes the possibility of legal action against the Astorian by drunk-driving suspects, but believes the value to the community makes the practice worthwhile. The paper, with a weekday circulation of 8,333, will start listing in its police blotter all Clatsop County drunk-driving arrests, then follow each case through the legal process. Forrester said the paper had held back reporting the drunk-driving arrest of a local city-council member several years ago and regretted it when the person was later arrested again for driving under the influence.
“I think it is fair game, but it is important to be consistent,” Scott Maben, president of the Greater Oregon Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, said about the practice that has been tried, and often halted, by papers in the past. That the Astorian will be “following each arrest through the courts is encouraging,” he said. But Sandy Nelson, Oregon public liaison for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said there is no evidence that such a practice reduces DUI arrests.