A large part of a newspaper's job is not only what to publish but what not to publish.
This does not pertain to public information that is routinely processed such as police reports, deaths, deeds, marriages, divorces, bankruptcies, etc.
It does pertain to judgment calls such as the one that was presented March 19 about an hour after the Nicholas A. Horner double-murder trial began.
While being led into the Blair County Courthouse by two deputies, Horner flipped the middle finger - both of them, actually - at Mirror photographer Gary Baranec.
Upon seeing it, my first reaction: "We've got to run that photo."
I felt this is one of the worst criminal acts in our town's history, committed by someone who had waited three years to have his day in court, and this was his response?
Several people in the newsroom (and outside the newsroom) agreed.
Sentiment for running it was simple: It happened, and it's our job to report it. It's a high-profile case, not a random drug dealer.
We also contacted national journalism ethics guru Bob Steele, whom we've occasionally called upon for advice over the years.
He asked a few questions that we answered. Including:
Was Baranec alone? (Yes.) Did he incite Horner in any way to get his attention? (No.)
Steele said if the photo was used, it should come with an accompanying explanation.
He cited a couple of national cases in which similar offensive indiscretions were published that would have inflamed the grieving families.
He favored running it, saying, "My inclination is to give the public the information rather than withhold it."
Several people in the newsroom (and outside the newsroom) disagreed.
Their feeling was that we're a family newspaper that kids read, and it is distributed in schools.
There was also suspicion that Horner did it intentionally because: 1) He thought or was advised that doing so would discourage us from running the picture; or 2) he wanted to spread his message that he is crazy, and this would aid his case.
We did consider that it's not our job to interpret what may have been contributing to his thought process (or whether in fact he even had one). At the same time, he seemed to have a quick response to the sight of a camera.
Although we included information about it at the end of the story on the first day of testimony, we ultimately decided not to run the picture.
We knew the jury was not sequestered, and we didn't want to be accused of influencing it.
We did not want people saying, "Did you see what the [enter expletive] Mirror did?" at a time when it was more important to focus on the testimony.
We tried to combine respect for the victims' families - the Garlicks and the Williamses - with the fact that, yes, we are a family newspaper, and we've never run someone making an obscene gesture.
It's been done in bigger cities, where heinous crimes like this happen more and too frequently. But we try not to be the New York Post.
We did post the pictures online because, as it proves daily, the web brings a different audience.
Later in the day, Horner also gave the finger to photographer J.D. Cavrich, but that picture wasn't quite as visible.
TV cameras didn't appear to catch either incident. If they had, they may have blotted the gesture out. That would go against our policies for news photos.
Had Horner done it again when the trial was over, maybe our decision would have been different.
Or maybe it would have been more fitting if - in this case, aimed at a criminal that got more consideration than he deserved - the gesture could have been returned.
Mirror Managing Editor Neil Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.