Dozens of stories and briefs on arrests in Eastern Iowa appear in The Gazette each week. Here is some information on how those stories are generated and why some arrests get coverage and others don’t:
How do you choose what to cover?
Numerous factors go into dictating what crime stories appear online and in the newspaper. The most obvious factor is the severity of the crime. In Iowa, crimes are divided into felonies – the highest level of offenses – and misdemeanors – lower level offenses. There are also separate levels of felonies and misdemeanors. Higher level crimes tend to get more coverage, particularly violent crimes, robberies and sex crimes.
Aside from the level of offense, we look at other details in the crime that might make the incident noteworthy. That can include a large number of offenses, a particularly high dollar theft or a large amount of drugs seized. If there is something about the incident itself that stands out, such as a drunken driver driving the wrong way down the interstate, that could lead to coverage, as well.
What does not factor into coverage?
We do not write crime stories based on a suspect’s race, gender or sexual orientation. Age can be a factor if the suspect is young and accused of a serious crime.
Where do you get your information?
Most of the information found in crime stories come from court documents, which are public records accessible to anyone. Criminal complaints will include basic information, such as the suspect’s name and address, the charges they are facing and a narrative describing the nature of the offenses. When necessary or appropriate, additional information is obtained from court records such as search warrants and no contact orders or interviews with sources.
Who are your sources?
Official sources include members of area police departments - primarily public information officers and command staff – as well as city and county staff and attorneys. Because they are in a position of authority, we are able to hold these sources accountable for the information they share. Citizens also provide us with information – and are encouraged to do so – but the information they provide is often corroborated with an official source or is not included in our coverage.
What if I have a question or a correction?
We correct all errors of fact in our reporting and invite you to help keep us accountable. Please fill out the form here to let us know of anything we should address.