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Privacy

by on April 7, 2013

In the exercise in class where we discussed the checklist of ethical concerns about privacy a journalist is likely to encounter, one of the few points my group was able to reach a unanimous opinion on was the issue regarding the publishing of a crime victim’s name. We all decided that it is unethical to publish such information about a victim. While it is a journalists responsibility to report crimes accurately, it seems to be an invasion of privacy to publish personal details about a victim, like their name. In fact, the Society of Professional Journalist’s code of ethics has a whole section, more or less, dedicated to the protection of victims, referred to as their “Minimize Harm” section. Specifically it states “Be cautious about identifying juvenile suspects or victims of sex crimes.” 

As we continued with the discussion we eventually moved on to the following question which proved to cause more disparity. As we started discussing whether or not a journalist should “Publish the names of people who have committed sex crimes, have served their time in jail, and are trying to make a living in your town” my group was of varying opinion. I was of the opinion that since something like this would be pubic record anyway their would be no ethical problem in publishing the information if you wanted to. Though, if I was the editor of a paper I would not go out of my way to publish things like these. If I ran an online publication, I might perhaps put a link to the local police department’s website in the crime log section, but beyond this, I would not publish these names. 

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One Comment
  1. I’m going to address one of the focusses you talked about, since this is a very broad subject. When it comes to the topic of “Be cautious about identifying juvenile suspects or victims of sex crimes,” I think journalists have to be very cautious and aware of everything the story involves. Sometimes, I find, these reports really don’t need to include the name of victims or suspects. Often times, though, journalists do state the name of victims and juvenile suspects. I think this can cross the line of what a journalist’s job is. If a story or report can be just as informative without mentioning names of victims or underaged suspects, then society may benefit in more ways than one. If the journalist feels that the general public could benefit just as much from knowing the name as knowing the story in general, then the names should be published. However, publishing names of children or victims can be dangerous to the victim or child, and their family. For these reasons, I think the general public doesn’t need to know names so long as the story identifies all other outlets of the story. At the same time, I do recognize that a lot of police reports expose names as they specify it as general knowledge, but at the same time, reporters need to realize that their stories may reach a broader audience and that they must conceal these types of things to officials or police reports.

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