COLUMN: Why names matter in underage drinking coverage

COLUMN: Why names matter in underage drinking coverage

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Joshua Adam Mumblo, a 2009 graduate of South Glens Falls, wants to know why The Post-Star prints the names of young people who are arrested for underage drinking.

He posted a long comment on the newspaper’s Facebook page this past week and posed some pointed questions. His opinion is a strong one and likely shared by many others, especially those younger than 21.

“Show some respect,” Mumblo writes. “What were you doing when you were 18? Stop treating them like hardcore criminals by posting their names all over the paper for the community to see. It’s disgusting how you put their names out their for everyone to see like they are rapists or murderers. Stick to the real news for once.”

He commented afterward to his Facebook followers, “Please share this so I make sure they see this! Please.”

As of Friday, 41 people had said they “like” his post.

The question is fair and deserves a response.

Kids were dying.

Ten of them in a two-year span in alcohol-related accidents from 2002-2003. Mr. Mumblo was in grammar school at the time and probably doesn’t remember the deaths of 16-year-old Desmond Ahigian and 17-year-old Patricia Myers in an April 6, 2002, crash in Greenwich in which they were passengers.

We covered the funerals and printed the photos of teens carrying coffins.

We covered the trials where young people went to prison because of an ill-fated night of partying.

Mr. Mumblo was probably playing video games and reading comics when we reported the death of 17-year-old Jason Daniels in Warrensburg on May 18, 2003, and four months later, the death of 19-year-old Adam Baker, also in Warrensburg.

In 2004, our newspaper produced a special series, “The Cost of Fun: Stories of Underage Drinking,” that chronicled the problem in our communities and the effects of the tragedies.

We reprinted the series two years later and I still have copies in my office. I offer them up for free to anyone concerned about the problem, anyone who has a teen they feel is at risk. I especially would like Mr. Mumblo and his 41 friends to pick up a copy.

They can read a first-person account from the father of Stephen Cook of Johnsburg. Stephen died Feb. 8, 2002, when a drunk driver slammed into the car he was in and took his life at the age of 18.

They can read about the others: 15-year-old Jonathan Freebern of Saratoga Springs, 19-year-old John Brendan Costello of Hague, 18-year-old Nathaniel W. Martell of Argyle and 19-year-old Maclane Moses Harrington of Salem. All would be in the prime of their lives now. Maybe married, maybe with children of their own.

That is gone.

The series delved into the how, the why and the long-term effects alcohol abuse can have on families and people. It explained how alcohol affects young minds differently and makes them more prone to risk taking.

I wonder if Mr. Mumblo knew that?

We published guest essays from members of the community who bravely chronicled their own problems with alcohol. Some ruined their relationships. Others ruined their lives. And others nearly wasted their lives.

Mr. Mumblo and the 41 who “liked” his post will roll their eyes and believe this is the hysterical ramblings of some new-age temperance movement imposing its excessive moral values on the rest of the community.

Not so. Nobody enjoys a margarita by the pool or a cold beer after doing chores in the yard like myself. This was about doing something to end the carnage.

When we considered printing names, we asked for guidance.

We consulted with local law enforcement, we consulted with school officials and we consulted with those who run social programs.

They all urged us to print names.

So we did.

We’ve been pilloried before for the policy, but I believe in it.

Underage drinking is dangerous and if you don’t believe me, I will show you the headstones.

We do not consider those arrested to be criminals, just foolish adolescents who are making dangerous decisions. They don’t know any better.

Yes, Mr. Mumblo, I had my first drink when I was underage. The drinking age was 18 then and I drank and drove far too many times afterward. Far too many of my peers did it as well.

It frightens me when I think back of those times. I feel lucky to be here and even luckier I never hurt anyone else.

Your generation has grown up at a time when drinking and driving is far less accepted. You and your peers are far more careful than previous generations. But kids are still dying.

So we print the names.

It is not out of animosity; it is with the intent to save a life.

If there is one young person who learns the lesson, if there is one young person who gets grounded for life for embarrassing their parents, if there is one young person who pauses to consider whether to accept a beer at the next party because they don’t want to see their name in the newspaper, then it is worth it.

Drinking has life and death consequences and those younger than 21 rarely consider those possibilities.

It won’t happen to them, they believe.

I know of 10 examples that suggest it can happen to them.

I hope Mr. Mumblo prints this response on his Facebook page. But I don’t expect any of his friends to “like” it.

Ken Tingley is the editor of The Post-Star and may be reached via email at You can read his blog “The Front Page” daily at or his updates on Twitter at


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