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Missy Layfield - Editor

What is News?

What is news? What should be printed in the paper?

The answer to those two questions is different for each one of us. What one person sees as something the community should know is another’s invasion of privacy and no one else’s business.

When a person is wronged, they want the culprit, as they see it, named in bold letters in the newspaper. If accused themselves, they don’t think it should be in the paper at all.

Let’s take arrests. The Lee County Sheriff’s Office provides a list of persons arrested, the charge, their home address and the location of their arrest. Some community newspapers print that list every week. We do not. Primarily because fairness demands that if we’re going to report that someone was arrested, we should report the final disposition of the case, including if they were found innocent, if that is the case. To provide that level of fair coverage of arrests and follow-up would require more time and space and staff than our newspaper can provide.

So, while we understand that if a drunken driver hits you, you want their name in the paper, we’re not going to do that, because we can’t follow that case to its conclusion.

Also, from our interaction with the community, we hear that most of our readers aren’t interested in who got arrested for what last week.

We could list the calls we get on deadbeat tenants or bad landlords, or the neighbors who won’t stop playing their music too loud. We realize that this may be a huge issue for the affected parties; it isn’t for the vast majority of our readers.

There’s also a little issue of liability. Ours. If a situation is likely to involve a legal battle, we’re going to let the lawyers battle it out. Yours. Our job is not to allow one or the other party in a private legal matter to use the newspaper to publicly call out or shame someone. Not our job. If it’s a legal issue, hire a lawyer and go after them.

Readers are interested in knowing about crime activity on the beach, especially when it’s in their neighborhood. We’ve encouraged Islanders to utilize the crime mapping program on the LCSO website or via crimereports.com, where you can sign up for emailed reports on what crimes have been committed in any neighborhood you specify.

It appears that when someone is the victim of a crime, such as a theft or B & E, more often than not, they are surprised that the crime could happen here on the beach. As if by crossing that bridge, they are entering a utopian crime-free community. Sadly, not true.

Our community has the same crime issues that others of its size have, maybe a bit more. Bad guys see vacationers as easy targets. Maybe they’ll leave their car or their sliding door unlocked when they head to the beach. Maybe they’ll leave their wallet under their towel when they go for a walk on the beach. Maybe they’ll leave their phone or tablet on the car seat with the window open when they head into the store to grab a drink. Too often the bad guys’ hopes of easy pickings become reality. And we have a crime report and another surprised crime victim.

We are very interested in letting people know what a great place Fort Myers Beach is to live, work and play. We carry stories about the interesting people and events in our Island community. We like to think we’re a scrapbook for Fort Myers Beach, covering all the news in our community-big news, happy news, sad news, school news-news that ends up on the refrigerator or in the family scrapbook.

That does not mean that we ignore bad news. If we can confirm the information and it affects a good portion of our Island, we’ll cover it. We’ve carried extensive coverage of unpleasant news, from the BP oil spill to last year’s excessive Lake O polluted water discharges to our Town’s struggles with elevated pools. We try to balance our responsibility to let our community know what’s going on with the community feature stories that our readers have come to expect from us.

As the only newspaper located on the Island, owned and operated by Islanders and committed to financially supporting Island events and organizations, we recognize our responsibility to provide Island readers with the news and community information they want and need.

Missy Layfield