We’re back with another edition of Newsroom 101 and another frequently misunderstood area of journalism: Reporting and photographs involving people younger than 18.
It’s a common misconception that we can’t take or print photos of or interviews with minors without consent from a parent or guardian. If they’re in public, we don’t need permission, although we try to be respectful when wishes are expressed in advance.
Under New Mexico law, anyone — journalist or not — can photograph any person or thing in a public place or visible from public property, without permission. There’s also no law saying we can’t interview a juvenile and print the interview without the permission of parents.
Nonetheless, if we can find a parent or caretaker available nearby, we typically ask if it’s OK to interact with a child and then abide by the parent’s wishes. We want to be respectful and avoid causing any problems if there’s a particular reason the family needs to avoid appearing in the paper.
We also don’t want anyone becoming alarmed and calling the police on us because they don’t know what we’re doing.
In school buildings, we ask teachers if any students have a do-not-photograph directive from their parents, and we abide by any such directives. In private homes and businesses, we respect whatever wishes the residents or owners express.
At the same time, parents need to be aware that if they leave their child, particularly a teenager, unattended in public, we’re not going to track down a caretaker. We’ll simply ask the minor for permission.
If you trust your children to take care of themselves in public, we believe we’re warranted in trusting them to decide whether or not to appear in the paper.
We also don’t ask for or need permission to print photos of students participating in public events such as athletic events, competitions, graduations or performances, even if the photo involves an injury.
Regardless of age, no one in a public place has a legal expectation of privacy. That’s why it’s called “public.”
Any photo we take in public could be, and in many cases likely would be, taken by dozens of cellphone users and posted all over the web. There’s rarely a viable reason for us not to print what’s already public.
Parents, if you don’t want your children talking to a reporter or having their photos in the paper, please teach them to say so when you’re absent. If you have concerns about a photo or interview that’s already done, we need to know immediately, before it is printed or appears online.
Per company policy, once something is online, we don’t take it down unless it’s inaccurate. Even if we take something down, other people could have already copied and redistributed it, which is out of our control.
Plus, once the hard-copy paper is distributed, we’re physically unable make its contents disappear from the public eye.
We don’t want to upset people who have done nothing wrong, but we need to do our jobs of telling stories and reporting facts in the community.