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Farmington Indecent Exposure Case Goes Viral

More than 80 websites have published mug shots of a couple caught in flagrante delicto behind a Farmington restaurant.

When I go through the police reports, whether it's in Farmington or Farmington Hills, there are stories I don't report. Today, one of those stories is featured on more than 80 websites – including the Daily Mail, out of the United Kingdom.

The facts are these: On Sept. 3, a officer responded to a complaint about a vehicle parked behind a restaurant on Farmington Road in downtown Farmington. He found the windows steamed up and the car rocking slightly, and saw the occupants were engaged in ... well, what one might expect under those circumstances. The 54-year-old man and 71-year-old woman, both intoxicated, were arrested; they are now facing charges of indecent exposure.

There are other, more salacious details being reported – if you're interested, head over to mailonline.com, thesmokinggun.com, perezhilton.com, jalopnik.com, or just go to Google.com and type in "71-year-old woman" + "Farmington Michigan". It's even on Facebook.

Because I can only report on a small portion of all the police activity in our communities, I choose based on the type of crime. I look for burglaries, thefts from automobiles, business break-ins, drunk driving, drug arrests. It seems to me people should know where those crimes are taking place, in order to protect themselves.

Four drunk driving arrests around Grand River and Halsted Roads means you should probably be cautious in that area. What's the value of reporting that two intoxicated people got steamed up in a car? If you look at the reporting of the story being done now, it's apparently poking fun at their ages and their mugshots.

When today's groundswell of attention started, I turned to my trusted Patch colleagues for advice. Two of them said while it doesn't pass the "family friendly breakfast test," they might have run a watered down version of the story, because this happened close to a restaurant and among the diners was a child.

I see the point. And if the child had been more directly involved, I would have looked harder at the story.

Ultimately, I base these kinds of decisions on my perception of what you want. I think you come to Farmington-Farmington Hills Patch to find news you can use, not news of the lewd.

Tell me what you think.

Debbie Meyers October 07, 2011 at 03:07 AM
I respect your judgment. If the story had been about two 20-somethings, it would not have made headlines anywhere.
Alan Stamm October 07, 2011 at 04:04 AM
Well-said and the right call, Joni. High road is worth taking, and confirms why Patch is worth reading.
Carol Lundberg October 07, 2011 at 10:31 AM
It's a tough call. I know it was tempting to report it, but reporters and editors often have to ask ourselves who we're writing for. Are we writing for our readers, or are we writing to entertain ourselves? When in doubt, stay on the high road.
George Markasian October 11, 2011 at 07:22 PM
Really? Here's an angle you may not have considered - or perhaps did and decided it might be the slightest bit inflammatory.... Two patrons of a downtown Farmington bar were over-served (registering nearly twice the legal limit) and allowed to leave and make their way to their vehicles - presumably eventually in order to drive them to their next destination. The damage they potentially could have caused far eclipses what they were actually caught doing, but what if they hadn't been caught when they were? The bar that over-served these fine, upstanding citizens (read with sarcasm) is owned by a prominent local politician - one now seeking to lead our fair city and have some control over it's purse. But...no story there, right? Might bruise some sensibilities. I find your rationalization long on the self-congratulatory and quite short on real justification... True journalism is the reportage of all relevant happenings, regardless of your own opinion or level of personal offense, while picking and choosing what one will report based on the same reduces one to the role of mere scribe. "All the news that we deem to be appropriate" should not be the motto of a true journalistic endeavor.
Joni Hubred-Golden (Editor) October 11, 2011 at 10:03 PM
Mr. Markasian, I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. The police report did not indicate where the couple was served. In any case, I could not have reported on what didn't or what might have happened, only on what did. As I wrote, I can't report every incident that happens in our community, so I make my choices based not on what people find might offensive (or not), but on what people find relevant. The feedback I've gotten thus far, through comments here and elsewhere, tells me the vast majority people don't find this kind of reporting relevant - at least not from a community news website. That's justification enough for me.
George Markasian October 11, 2011 at 10:56 PM
"the vast majority people don't find this kind of reporting relevant - at least not from a community news website" Relevant to what? Public safety? Liquor law compliance? Actually, the information as to where these folks were over-served is available, and was reported on some of the news sites mentioned earlier. Simple investigation brought that out. My point is - in this day and age of tailored and slanted "news", what is really needed is a source one can count on to tell the truth, the WHOLE truth, and nothing but. This applies to subjects both local and national. A reticence to investigate, or to ask the simple question, renders the results as a mere regurgitation of what is provided. And, while "happy" news has it's place, I'd prefer it left to the reader as to what is considered worthy to consume. When the Patch started up locally, I was eagerly anticipating a wide-ranging and comprehensive reportage of all things taking place in my community. I am sorry to say, it has not fulfilled that wish. "Reporting" on who gave dance classes last week, or who's kid won a special award, or what a select group of individuals thought of the new restaurant down the street is entertaining to be sure, but is it really anything more than a proprietary newsletter? Patch has become USA Today on nitrous oxide. i guess if it makes you feel good - there's some justification. But let's not confuse it with actual "news", especially when it's filtered to the consistency of Pablum.
Joni Hubred-Golden (Editor) October 12, 2011 at 01:33 AM
Mr. Markasian, just to clarify, the stories you find here about kids' awards and dance classes are largely submitted by our readers directly through the site, not something assigned to a reporter or something I would cover. We've done reporting on the sale of Eagle Elementary and other controversial school-related issues, local election profiles and city issues, among other hard news stories. I believe all media outlets choose what news they report, because it's simply not possible to report everything and let the reader sort it out. My point with this column was asking readers what kinds of crime stories they want to see in the future, so that I'm not relying exclusively on my own judgment. Thanks again for your comments, I appreciate the feedback.

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