When do you name suspects?
Earlier today, user grandmasgirl asked this question in the comment section below a story about a Vermilion man charged with public indecency after a student claimed he saw the man expose himself in a school parking lot. I thought it might be worthwhile to answer it in the Mailbag, because there seems to be some confusion about how we decide who is named in correlation to an alleged crime. Different news organizations might have different guidelines, but generally every newsroom has some kind of standard operating procedure. This is ours.
Suspects are typically named when they are charged. We try to be pretty consistent on this point, but of course, there are exceptions. One is when police give us the name of a dangerous suspect they're trying to arrest. If officers consider a person to be a threat to public safety and are trying to locate the person, we will publish a name and description of the person to assist in the arrest.
The second is when a public official has been suspended from work at a government agency before criminal charges come through. For example, Alexa Nasonti, the Norwalk teacher recently found guilty of having sex with a student, was named before criminal charges were filed because the school district put her on leave. We do this with public employees because they are funded by taxpayers dollers and the public has a right to know what's going on with their money and their public services. If she worked for a private business, we wouldn't have named her, even if she was suspended from work, until charges were filed. If the district hadn't put her on leave when allegations arose, we would have had a to make a very difficult decision -- one I'm sure would have been discussed at length by the editors here.
On the flip side, quite a few people have asked us why we haven't yet named the suspects in the abuse of the 4-month-old baby girl who is being treated in Toledo. We haven't named them because they haven't been charged. When and if anyone is charged, he or she can expect to be in the newspaper.
While the details of the story sometimes make it a hard decision to name or not name a suspect, we hope that by naming people only when charged we're at least being consistent. If anyone has questions about why we choose to name or not name suspects in the future, you can always feel free to email me or Managing Editor Matt Westerhold and we'll try to provide you an explanation.