Last week Dr. J. Phillip Raley, former Opelika City Schools Superintendent, was arrested for DUI at 9:49 a.m. on Saturday. Were people upset that a leader in the community was endangering the lives of innocent people? Were they calling the police department demanding that this individual be removed from our streets? No, they were angered because the local newspaper used the story as a lead on its internet news page. They were angered that the good name of a local leader was smeared across the front page and began demanding an apology, cancelling their subscriptions and trying to make the newspaper the bad guy in this situation. If, during his drive across town, he had injured or killed an innocent person, would they feel the same way? Would they have stood up in his defense?
I realize that Dr. Raley has done a lot of good in our community, but this is probably not the first time he drove while intoxicated. It’s just the first time he got caught, and yes, it’s news. Click here to see the response from Wayne Snow. Maybe this incident will force him to get the help he needs and will be the catalyst to turn his life around so that it will never happen again.
People who choose to hold positions of honor and who are often in the public eye realize that all eyes will be on them. They will make the news whether they do something positive for the community or choose to make an unwise decision that will undo all they’ve ever done. Unfortunately, it’s the bad we do that defines our lives. For those of us whose lives are not scrutinized by the public, it’s easier to forget our mistakes and move on. For those whose lives are on public display, the only thing people will remember is that one bad decision.
I’m glad Mr. Snow responded to the comments and that he stood up for the decision made to run the article. If this had been a public figure that was not well-liked, the newspaper would have been praised for the story. As readers, we can’t have it both ways. We either respect the newspaper for running the good, the bad and the ugly or we cancel our subscriptions, stop reading the paper online and live in ignorance of what is going on in our community.
I don’t often defend the decisions of our local papers, but I may have to subscribe to the OA News again.