We write the chapters in our own lives

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By The Staff

It is a typical scene in our office.

A person - generally irate - although sometimes simply confused - walks through the door, picks up a paper from the stand and slaps it on the counter.

Wait - I take that back. Sometimes they are angry and confused.

Sometimes they shake the paper.

Other times, they turn a few pages and jab a finger at an article.

"Who wrote this?" they demand.

Sometimes they add a few choice words.

Generally, they are upset about the publication of public record information. And generally, they - or someone they care about - are the focus of that information.

Sometimes they call.

You never know from week to week what will set someone off. We see the gamut - cold checks, child abuse, spouse abuse, speeding, assault, DUI, dog bites and an assortment of alcohol or drug related offenses.

No one wants to have his name involved with any of that. (Except certain teenage boys who seem to get a kick out of seeing their names connected with anything regarding excessive speed.)

But it happens.

And so, one of our staff will explain gently that the information is public record - and that is what newspapers do. They print public records - a duty which is considered to be in the public's interest.

It is not done out of malice or a desire to see someone's life ruined.

The person's expression changes from anger to disbelief.

Wait - I take that back. Sometimes they are angry and in disbelief.

"But where did you find out this information," they ask. "This is nobody's business. This information should be sealed."

The information is not sealed, we will explain. It is readily available to anyone who asks to see it in the Circuit Clerk's office. The facts are gleaned from arrest citations, court dockets, indictments, accident reports, etc.

We do not make any of it up. None of us have the inclination, the energy or the time. Besides, that would be wrong. We only reprint facts that already have been set down by officials.

We do not get a kick out of someone else's misfortune, because, after all, it could be us or our loved one featured in the following week's issue.

"You mean that anybody can walk in and read my records," the person asks.

We nod.

The person will turn to leave, perhaps to go ask the same questions of the Circuit Clerk's staff. But they stop, still needing to find someone to blame for the embarrassment and discomfort generated by finding their name printed in the public records section.

"But who wrote this?" they ask again.

The answer is simple.

"You did."