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  • Uebelhor
September 19, 2018
Sometimes we have to do things we don't want to.

For instance, I'm sure Crawford County Prosecutor Nicholas Haverstock didn't want to send Crawford County District 4 Councilman Joe LaHue to jail, I'm sure LaHue himself doesn't want to go to jail, and I know that my covering Mr. LaHue's case for the past year, which I'm sure directly caused hardships for him and his family, was not something I enjoyed doing. But it had to be done.

On Haverstock's end, I imagine it's difficult being a prosecutor in a small community where you know everybody. If I had to guess, I'd assume he knows LaHue outside of county politics (they're from the same party, by the way). I'm also positive he had a lot of interested parties in his ear throughout the whole ordeal telling him what he should do. Not to mention the fact that it's an election year and, regardless of whether the public thought he went too soft or too hard on LaHue, neither one would help him in the least.

Personally, I think the sentence fit the crime.

Now, I don't know LaHue. I've never spoken a word to him. This is not a judgment on his character — I have nothing against the man. But, I think as a prosecutor, the right message had to be sent. There needed to be a precedent.

I'll be the first to admit I was a bit skeptical as to how this would all play out. I'm not naive to the whispers of Crawford County politics, specifically how the "good ol' boys" take care of one another. And, again, it's not that I wanted to see it handed to the man or whatever. I just genuinely believe that it shouldn't matter what position you hold or what your last name is. If you commit a crime, you have to pay the consequences like everyone else. If anything, public figures should be treated with more scrutiny. It may not be fair, but that's the life you sign up for when you decide to put yourself out there.

And I commend LaHue for taking responsibility for his actions. He didn't have to accept the plea offer from the state. He could've drug this thing out in a trial and, who knows, may have gotten a better deal. However, I'm sure that he knew doing so would've cost the taxpayers.

Mr. LaHue, if you're reading this, I'm sorry if you felt like my reporting was a personal attack on you or your family. I'm sorry if you felt like I was sensationalizing your hardship. Airing your business to the public is not something I got pleasure out of doing, but it's part of my ethics. It's something I have to do. I may not be elected by the public, but I work for them just the same as you.

And for those of you who wonder why this paper reports on LaHue's, Tonia Jones-Elliott's or Alvin Crecelius' cases, the answer is simply that they are or were a public figure and there is a high public stake in their lives.

The legal definition of public figure begins with the grouping — elected officials and other major government officeholders, athletes and actors. The courts have reasoned that the public has a special interest in what these people do or in the policy issues they address.

By becoming a councilman, a deputy auditor or a sheriff, these people have put themselves forward for public positions of trust, which inevitably is accompanied with public scrutiny into their private morality. People who are public figures — politicians, or corporate leaders, or people who carry a public responsibility such as police officers, teachers and doctors — are sometimes people whose private affairs may have an important impact on their public duties.

Enter journalism.

Journalism plays a central role in democracy. It gives people the information they need to take part in the democratic process. That is why there is a public service ethic at the heart of all serious journalism.

If journalists are good at their job, they must hold governments and other institutions to account and they must act and behave ethically.

Regardless of whether or not I wanted to cover this story, I signed up for this. I went to university, I got a degree in journalism — part of which included a three-hour-credit Communications Law course — and I decided before I ever stepped foot inside O'Bannon Publishing Co. that my ethical integrity and credibility was far more important than any temporary feeling.

Sometimes, we just have to do things we don't want to.

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