If you happen to live in the tony neighborhood of West Hollywood, California there’s a new online publication available that you might want to check out. This could be particularly true if you’ve recently been arrested for anything. The outlet, named WEHOville, has been running a list of everyone that’s taken downtown by the cops and some of the locals are not happy about this at all. (CBS Los Angeles)
An online publication is now allowing its users to view who has been arrested in West Hollywood including names, ages and the crime they — for alleged crimes from misdemeanors to felonies.
Some in the tight-knit community said they are upset and called this nothing more than public shaming, but the man behind WEHOville said residents have the right to know.
“WEHOville is committed to publishing the facts about life in West Hollywood, without fear or favor,” publisher Hank Scott said in a statement. “Those facts have included the felony convictions of a recent city commissioner and revelations of lawsuits against various people who have run for City Council.”
So is this legal? In a word, yes. But one legal analyst from the area described it as lawful, but awful. Another neighbor called it “public shaming.”
But is it really? WEHOville has already posted the names of people arrested for crimes ranging from driving on a suspended license all the way up to rape. If you are arrested, even if it turns out you’re innocent, that’s news and it’s made available to the media by law enforcement. When more famous people such as celebrities, politicians and athletes are arrested, the press rushes to put the news out long before they are even officially charged, to say nothing of convicted. Is there some unwritten rule saying that the hoi polloi are granted some level of privacy that the powerful and famous are not?
When I was on assignment with a couple of other people for an extended period in Chattanooga, Tennessee some years ago, we always picked up a copy of a weekly paper called “Just Busted in Chattanooga.” We didn’t even know anyone down there, but it was still an entertaining read. One of our local contacts we worked with always grabbed our copy as soon as we showed up and started flipping through it to see if anyone she knew was in there.
Let’s face it. This may not be the noblest endeavor in the history of journalism, but most people like to gossip sometimes whether they admit it or not. And if you get arrested, your friends and neighbors generally wind up finding out about it anyway. One of the objections being raised by one person in West Hollywood is that the information will be on the internet forever and “a potential employer” or “somebody you might be interested in dating” could Google your name and see it.
I suppose that may be true, but if you’ve been arrested for rape, might not a woman you are asking out want to at least know about that and look into the details further? If you’ve been arrested for embezzlement or fraud, your potential employer would probably like to know that as well. And if the guy running this website isn’t breaking any laws, trying to drive him out of business sounds more like a case of you shaming him.