WDAM Viewpoint - Public's need to know - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

WDAM Viewpoint - Public's need to know

The troubled youths sent to the Forrest County Juvenile Detention Center are there for a reason.  They have made mistakes or committed crimes.  The stated goal of the center is to rehabilitate them and set them on the right path. 

When a video came into our possession at WDAM that showed what appeared to be kids being abused by a guard…and after we obtained corroborating interviews…we felt the public had a need to see it.  Especially, since a guard had been fired for these offenses by the Sheriff's Department and we were told by officials that there is a possibility of criminal charges being filed against him. 

We undertook to blur the faces in order to protect the identities of those who were minors on the video.  Before we could air the video, Youth Court Judge Mike McPhail issued a restraining order preventing us from doing so.  We challenged him in court and Judge McPhail upheld his restraining order.  The Youth Court contends that there is no need for you, the taxpayers and citizens, to see this tape.  Their attorneys say we could report the alleged abuse without showing it. 

They say we want to do it purely for sensationalism…always an easy and cheap shot at the media.  We believe the adage that a picture is worth a thousand words is true.  And since when is the truth sensational?  A light should be shined on the physical abuse of kids while in the custody of our legal system any time it happens—and they deserve a right to be heard in our opinion. 

In our society, journalists serve as watchdogs.  Now we have taken the case to the Mississippi Supreme Court which has agreed to allow  many distinguished news organizations and journalistic associations around the country to file in the case as well.  This will no doubt be an important ruling in regard to First Amendment rights.  We didn't want to have to take this route…but you have a right to know what happened on that video and judge for yourself.  I'm Jim Cameron and that's my opinion.  We'd like to hear from you.

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