Archived Story

‘What makes this newsworthy?’

Published 8:09pm Saturday, June 22, 2013

Every time we run a story about Raleigh Isaacs Jr., we get flooded with online messages, emails, phone calls and even visits, so I knew what was coming when we published Saturday’s story about Isaacs’ recent assault charges being dismissed in Suffolk General District Court because the victim failed to appear for the trial.

Isaacs has appeared in the paper several times in the past. His history with Suffolk law enforcement includes four charges of driving under the influence of alcohol since March 2006, all of which have been reduced, dismissed or not prosecuted. He has served jail time for some of the reduced charges, and he had his license suspended for a year after the most recent incident in August 2011, for which he was found guilty of refusing to take a blood or breath test.

None of those charges is especially newsworthy on its own. But Isaacs is the adult son of Suffolk Sheriff Raleigh Isaacs Sr. Whether the younger Isaacs had been convicted of all the charges against him or was fortunate enough to have them dismissed, reduced or not prosecuted, the relationship is what has made his legal troubles newsworthy. A reasonable argument could be made that the lack of convictions on original charges makes those legal troubles even more newsworthy.

Judging by the responses we have received on our stories about the younger Isaacs in the past, it’s safe to say few people have a weak opinion about them. Some folks worry about the appearance created by the man’s generally positive courtroom fortunes. Others cry foul over the choice we’ve made to point out the relationship between Isaacs and his public-figure father in each of the stories we’ve written about the younger man.

But if Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli had an adult son who was charged with a crime, folks would want to know. If U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder had an adult daughter arrested for some offense, people would expect to see something in the newspaper. If those theoretical cases were continually dismissed or otherwise adjudicated to the benefit of the defendants, people would expect to be informed, and they’d expect to be informed because of the family connections.

So it is with Raleigh Isaacs Jr.

Some folks wondered on Saturday why his story merited the placement it received on the front page. The decision came down to two things, really: We wanted to give the dismissal similar play to what his arrest had received, and there was an unfortunate shortage of other “hard” news to take the spot. With another hard story, perhaps the Isaacs headline would have been smaller, but it still would have appeared at the top of the page, much as the story about his arrest had.

That should answer the online commenter who claimed that the story’s play had something to do with an alleged bias on the part of news editor Tracy Agnew.

With Raleigh Isaacs Sr. running against opposition this year for sheriff and Tracy likely to cover the race, I take such an accusation very seriously. However I have seen absolutely no actual evidence of such a bias, and the commenter presented none.

As we move into our election coverage this summer, you can be sure both the younger and elder Isaacs men will be treated fairly in this newspaper. But that doesn’t mean we will shy away from covering the news, no matter how much some folks might like us to ignore it.

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  • Fred

    This “letter” is again published in the Jen Pond Facebook Page for her campaign along with a picture of Mr. Speers.

    I think it is fine that the SNH has made this impossible to deny endorsement (or does it call Mrs. Pond deceptive) although I wonder why the owners of the SNH would have allowed this since it will require constant disclosure in all future advertising/reporting which appears in the SNH.

    Suggest Removal

  • suffolkpeanut

    SNH you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. I might not always like or agree with what you want to report on but that is your job…to report what’s happening in our city. The folks that take such issue with this article on Issacs need to wake up. If you are a public figure you are going to be more heavily scrutinized. It’s just the way it is. I see in no way that SNH is trying to skew voters or anything of the sort. Isaa’s Jr has been screwing up for years. Here’s a thought…. if he’d actually get himself straight the SNH would have nothing to report.

    Suggest Removal

  • Cat

    I believe the few remaining readers of the SNH free handout disagree with this editorial and its open admission of impropriety in selecting this subject as an attack on the father of an adult in court who was not convicted of anything.

    If sincere, when will the SNH run stories about the other children of prominent citizens who have faced serious charges.

    I wonder if the prevailing defendant changed his name to “Res” Isaacs, if the coverage would have been the same and in the same front page position appropriate for reporting matters of key importance to our nation?

    Suggest Removal

  • gsmith963

    As I read your explanation of the Isaac’s front page expo I think that a better approach would have silence. As a reader I am concerned about the excessive coverage and repeated comments by your staff writer concerning the Sheriff and his 50 year old son problems. I hope as editor you will take off the sun glasses and look closely. A lie may take care of the present but it has no future.

    Suggest Removal

  • Caren O’Connor

    Aha, glad you mentioned that Isaacs is running for reelection this year which is the real reason for the story and its front-page placement. So sad that the SNH would stoop to this level of “news” reporting. There is a Criminal Records section of your paper. This is the correct place anyone looking for this information should have found it. NOT on the front page in BOLD letters.

    Suggest Removal

    • thekytikat

      So you’re saying that if Issacs Jr’s last name was Cuccinelli or Holder, you wouldn’t care what he did, and it wouldn’t be newsworthy? Bull. Did you even read Res’s piece here?

      Suggest Removal

      • Caren O’Connor

        So you’re equating the Attorney General, running for Governor with the Sheriff of Suffolk? I remain by my position. Suppose the SNH is a prime example of “you get what you pay for.”

        Suggest Removal

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