Matt Von Pinnon, Published September 05 2010
Von Pinnon: Everybody knows more after bankruptcy dialogueAfter lots of reader feedback and much discussion on our end, The Forum has chosen to continue running bankruptcy filings in the paper and on our website, inforum.com.
Our decision comes three months after we first asked readers if they valued knowing who files for bankruptcy.
We received well over 100 responses to that question, some of which we shared with our overall readership two weeks ago on an entire opinion page devoted to the feedback.
Those who thought we should no longer publish bankruptcies seemed to base their opinion on three main arguments:
- Bankruptcies are personal matters that nobody else needs to know about.
- Publishing bankruptcies to inform people who may be owed money or to warn businesses that may loan money to people with financial problems is antiquated. Other systems are now in place to inform those who need to know.
- Bankruptcies are often caused by factors beyond a person’s control, such as unanticipated health problems or the loss of a job. Publishing bankruptcies caused by these factors just adds insult to injury.
Those who thought we should continue publishing bankruptcy listings argued that doing so illustrates to the public at large the risks associated with managing money or taking on debt. Some saw the listings as a further deterrent to unwise spending habits.
In the end, though, we chose to continue publishing bankruptcy listings for two simple reasons:
- They are records made public by law, and we are a paper of public record. It’s true that we don’t print all public records, but we do print many. At some point, lawmakers guided by their constituents decided bankruptcies were an important piece of public information.
- People seem to want to know about bankruptcies. Before websites came along, it was hard for newspapers to measure the popularity of information. That’s no longer the case. We now know concretely how many people read specific information on our website. Bankruptcies are consistently among the most-read items we publish. We want to serve our readers.
Ultimately, we know not all information we provide is appreciated by all readers. That’s the beauty of a newspaper. People can read what they want and ignore what they don’t.
We don’t publish bankruptcies to send a message or illustrate a point. We publish the listings because we believe in providing people information. What they do with that information – or how they interpret it – is up to them.
We also think it’s good to occasionally review with our readers what we routinely publish. We learn a lot in that give-and-take, and we hope our readers do, too.
It’s true that there is a story behind every bankruptcy. Thanks to our readers and their feedback on this subject, we’ll all hopefully consider those reasons when we look at the listings from here on out.
Von Pinnon is editor of The Forum. Reach him at (701) 241-5579 or firstname.lastname@example.org.