There appears to be a publisher in Carmel who believes that driving under the influence is not such a big deal. This same guy has apparently created a policy on behalf of The Herald which, he asserts with frothy indignation, it has violated with its coverage of the Marvin Biasotti situation.
First off, I make the following declaration: If the executive editor of The Herald (me) is ever popped for driving under the influence or for any other crime, the popping will be duly noted in the pages of The Herald. I hope it never happens. But if it does, The Herald has a responsibility to report that the leader of a community institution acted irresponsibly by endangering fellow motorists. And I have a responsibility to own up to it.
I'd like to believe that Biasotti accepts the same responsibility. Biasotti, the superintendent of the Carmel Unified School District, was stopped and arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence several weeks ago after returning from a district function. Biasotti drew attention to the entire matter himself when he sent home a letter of apology to parents and ran the letter on the district's Web site. (Cynics suggest he brought attention to the matter simply because he knew the high school newspaper would be running a story about the arrest, but . . . )
Anyway, the hometown weekly righteously avoided mention of the arrest and the resulting dudgeon within the district, then had the gall to whine indignantly about The Herald in an editorial last Friday. The weekly's publisher believes that our coverage is overblown. He believes DUI arrest is a "relatively minor event." In Biasotti's case, no property was damaged, he argues, no lives were lost. No harm. No foul.
This from the same paper that once invested a major Watergate-style investigation into some poor schlub who left town without paying her hotel bill.
Oddly, in the same issue as the snippy editorial excoriating The Herald and its coverage of Biasotti, the weekly reported that Biasotti was indeed arrested for driving under the influence, that the superintendent takes full responsibility for his lapse in judgment, and that the school board is tripping all over itself trying to figure out what to do with Biasotti.
For the record, The Herald does not run lists of all of the unfortunates who are arrested and cited for driving under the influence. We once did that, printing a big long list in agate type at least once a week, but stopped about two decades ago for a variety of societal and practical reasons.
But that doesn't mean we have a policy of ignoring all drunken driving arrests. Biasotti's case was a no-brainer for us. Biasotti directs a school district with a zero-tolerance policy, a district that sponsors terrific "Don't Drink and Drive" programs around prom, a district that promotes teachable moments. Not only that, Biasotti himself stepped forward, publicly admitted an error of judgment and mea culpaed his way around the district.
If a high-profile community leader doesn't want his reputation or career damaged, he should befriend a sober driver to get him home from the fancy party.
And if a high-profile weekly publisher chooses to ignore legitimate news that captured the attention of the entire community even before it landed in The Herald, he ought to at least avoid the preachy screed.