Our Response to EdgefieldDaily.com Column
To the editor of EdgefieldDaily.com:
After reading your column about The Jail Report, I thought it might be helpful to let you know a little about our publication for future reference.
I am the publisher and started the paper in June 2009 out of passion for journalism and the police beat. As you are well aware with the popularity of your website, there is room for different kinds of media these days instead of the traditional newspapers and TV stations.
Ever since we started our publication in the CSRA, residents of Edgefield County have been begging us to add their county and provide them with the same crime information we provided to Richmond, Aiken and Columbia counties.
From Arielle Demetria Thomas: “I feel like we need to know what goes on in Edgefield because the crime blotter is only reported once a week and doesn’t give much info.”
So after more than a year, we finally agreed to add Edgefield County information to our paper.
I should also point our that I have a great love for Edgefield County. As a youth, I spent much time in the county for family events. I even rode a bicycle through the streets of downtown Edgefield on several occasions. To this day, I have family connections in Edgefield.
With that said, I thought it was time to accept the invitation of Edgefield residents to come there and provide them with specific crime and arrest information.
I called the Edgefield County Sheriff’s Office and asked for Sheriff Dobey, and I was directed to Capt. Chris Wash. I introduced myself and tried to explain about our paper. He quickly said that they were “not interested in participating.”
Can you imagine what you would have done at Edgefielddaily.com if they had told you that they were “not interested in participating” when you first started your website? I’d really like to know your answer to that.
I humbly explained that we were going to start the publication and were not asking for permission, but that we wanted to work with them to be a resource. I acknowledged that the sheriff’s office was probably overworked like most agencies and that we would be willing to pay for mugshots or incident reports. He said we could come down and get the bookings and reports like anyone else.
Soon after, though, the jail informed me that Sheriff Dobey was declining to release mugshots because they were property of the sheriff and private. We were forced to get the involvement of the S.C. Sheriff’s Association and the S.C. Press Association to explain to Sheriff Dobey that they are public record under state law. (To this day, Sheriff Dobey refuses to meet with us to even discuss our publication, and he has refused to send us press releases until we are “established”.)
We have never asked for anything free. This week, when we got incident reports and the wonderful woman in records printed them out for us, I asked her if we owed her anything. She said no. (We would kindly pay for them. Do you pay for reports and mugshots?)
It seems you believe that if you published all mugshots on edgefielddaily.com, that we would become unnecessary. We disagree. The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office publishes all of their mugshots online, but yet we still sell hundreds of papers a week in Columbia County.
Surely, you understand that there are people who do not enjoy Internet access and would enjoy a printed publication? I know you are a popular website, and for good reason. But you are not the only game in town.
Plus, our paper also includes an entertaining look at crime and the dumb crooks who cause society so many problems.
One more point. If you ever ran into trouble getting information from a public entity, we would hope you would not expect us to jump to conclusions, get one side of the story and then write an opinion column trashing you for having the nerve to seek the information. As a fellow journalist, you would want us to stick up for you. And we would. It’s disappointing that you are not doing the same for us.
Please don’t hesitate to call us for both sides of the story next time. I can personally be reached at 706-814-1359.
Greg Rickabaugh, Publisher
The Jail Report