Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

The Naming of Victims Is a Sensitive Issue at Paper

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

The Naming of Victims Is a Sensitive Issue at Paper

Article excerpt

Byline: Mike Clark, Times-Union Reader Advocate

Nobody said that ethical behavior is easy. Reporting the kidnapping and rape of two Los Angeles teenagers is a prime example.

It is standard policy of the Times-Union that victims of sexual assault are not identified in most circumstances unless the victim gives permission or goes public. It's the same policy followed by The Associated Press and most of the mainstream media.

The kidnapping of the two teenage girls on Aug. 1 became big national news while a search was under way. The Georgia Times-Union, the first edition off the presses, included the girls' names and photos. But that same evening, the abductor was killed after a car chase and a Los Angeles-area sheriff revealed that the girls had been raped. Was it too late to protect the girls' identity? Was the genie out of the bottle? After discussing the situation, Times-Union editors decided to delete the names and photos from The Florida Times-Union.

So on Friday, Aug. 2, Georgia readers saw the names and photos of the two abducted girls, but Florida readers did not.

"This was an unusual story because its nature changed between editions," News Editor Mike Marino said. "That's why we included the note at the end of the story in Florida editions that explained to readers why, in an earlier edition, the girls' names appeared and why we subsequently removed them. To be clear to the readers, we included notes in the stories that ran in the days that followed, too."

Further complicating matters, one of the girls gave a press conference on Aug. 2. But was her name and photograph included in news coverage in Los Angeles? Steve Cotter, senior chief copy editor, checked with The Associated Press in Los Angeles. Her identity was revealed, so the Times-Union used the name the next day, 17-year-old Jacqueline Marris. …

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