Sunday, September 26, 2010

Palmetto fight video ignites community debate

Do we or don't we post the video?

That was the debate in the newsroom last week as a quick scan of the web -- and YouTube in particular -- surfaced videos of two 16-year-old girls fist-fighting in that vacant Palmetto lot and one of their mothers urging her daughter on.

We decided to provide the link, as long as it was available on YouTube. We did not put a download of the video on, because we didn't film it ourselves. But that video is very much a part of the news story.

As reporters Beth Burger and Paradise Afshar outlined in their story today, the videos shot by some of the almost 100 teens watching that fight have catapulted the incident into an international news story.

Neither girl was apparently seriously injured, which the Herald editors also discussed before posting the video.

One of the girls' mother, April Newcomb, has been charged with child abuse. Her attorney acknowledges that the video catapulted this case into high drama.

From today's story:

“The actions of a high school student getting into a fight is not necessarily news. That’s been happening for years,” said Newcomb’s defense attorney, Kevin Hayslett, of Clearwater.

“Part of the snowball effect of this story is that it was beamed around the world within 24 hours,” he said. “Had it not been for the power of the Internet, this would have been a fight the kids talked about at school, but would not have had any lasting consequence for the participants or spectators.”

The Herald will continue to push for community conversation on this case. As columnist Vin Mannix notes in his column today, we're lucky no one was killed in this fiasco.

-- Joan

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