More comment on our stories regarding the Rochester Public Library security system from the library's board president, Steve McMaster...check the earlier post on the book bust:
I respectfully disagree that what the P-B did constitutes responsible journalism. Case in point: I now have in my hand a note written to me 10/28/05 by a Rochester resident who referenced the P-B article and took the P-B up on its invitation to test the security gate by removing unchecked out materials himself. So, what violation of the law are you going to invite folks to get away with next? Surely inquiring minds (and readers) want to know.
Could you please follow up on the questions I sent to Jeff Pieters yesterday in response up to his message? Jeff indicated he would pass them along but just in case copies of his and my emails are cut and pasted below. Thanks. I just want to be thorough in my own personal investigation of this matter.
P.S. The resident also mentioned in his note that this situation is on his mind as he considers whether to make another $500 donation to the public library this year. Harmless test?
Here's my response...I'll deal with this in Wednesday's Commentary page column as well:
Thanks for the note, Steve. Again, regarding our "test" of the system: we thought it was common sense to see if the alarm sounded with a simple test. Was it essential to the story? No, because as I indicated, it didn't really establish whether the system works...many people have experienced glitches in the library system and in most other theft prevention systems of that kind. But it was a simple matter for us to test, it didn't put anyone at risk, it was hardly a gross "violation of the law," as you're suggesting...could we have done it with the supervision of a library staff member? I suppose, but our goal was to independently check.
Regarding who did the test -- that's our business. Jeff indicated to you that he didn't do it, which is more information that I would have provided, frankly. How we get information, who our sources are, when we're going to report or publish a story, etc., are all matters of journalistic privilege, and we're not obligated to share them. Frequently we share a great deal about how and why we gather news, but regarding sources and methods, especially in a challenging and obviously controversial story of this kind, it crosses a professional line for us to reveal that type of information.
I believe that's the reaction you'd get from virtually any other U.S. newspaper editor, by the way.
Finally, regarding theft issues and the matter of the donor -- it's our job to report the news. The library's security system is in the news, we reported (accurately) some issues with the security system. To blame us for fallout from that is like blaming us for a burglary tomorrow because we reported on a burglary today.
I'm always available to talk more about this.
Fair or unfair? Should we have tested the system?