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 What is your policy on publishing names of crime victims?

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Number of posts : 12
Age : 38
Registration date : 2006-11-17

PostSubject: What is your policy on publishing names of crime victims?   Fri Dec 15, 2006 11:18 pm

Does anyone have a model policy on when to publish the names of crime victims, vehicle accident victims, juveniles charged with violent crimes, etc.? An inquiring editor's paper is taking a look at its policy and looking to other newspapers for guidance.

Please post your responses.
Thanks! Smile
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Number of posts : 1
Registration date : 2006-12-19

PostSubject: Victims' identity   Tue Dec 19, 2006 11:47 pm

Hi Kristen:
We generally report a victim's names if we can get it through an official source (often a challenge because of HIPAA if the only source is a paramedic). The exceptions are publishing a victim's name if it would endanger them and/or their family, and we also don't report names of sexual crime victims who survive.

But what I've learned over time is that none of this is hard and fast; it's just what we follow right now as general rules. It certainly depends on the circumstances and the political climate.

Becky Clark
Idyllwild Town Crier
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Marty W

Number of posts : 5
Registration date : 2006-12-20

PostSubject: Victims' identity   Wed Dec 20, 2006 1:04 am


The Lodi News-Sentinel/ policy and practice is just like Idlywild. I'd add also that we seldome publish the names of minors who are crime victims. In San Joaquin County the police are generally prohibited from releasing those names by a court order similar to the directive to law enforcement not to release the names of perpetrators. So the names of minors who are crime victims are hard to get.
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Registration date : 2007-01-04

PostSubject: Re: What is your policy on publishing names of crime victims?   Thu Jan 04, 2007 1:32 am

Our policy at the Elk Grove Citizen is to not publish the names of victims of sex crimes or youth who are victims. As others have said, the police often times do not release these names.

My personal belief is different. There is a Constitutional right to face your accuser. Suspected criminals are innocent until proven guilty.

Hence, I strongly and firmly believe in publishing the names of victims and accusers no matter the type of alleged crime.

In college, I worked on the school newspaper. A story came from the campus police that a woman had been raped on campus in the bushes near the library. A suspect was soon arrested. Before the trial, the woman admitted she made the whole story up. It was a lie to get attention.

So, what did we have? A story on the front page naming a suspect in a rape case that we found out never even happened. The correction ran on the inside but as well all know, the damage was done.

There are countless incidents of children making false claims of molestation only to later recant them. Is it fair to publish the name of an innocent until proven guilty person and not their accuser? No. These people are not anonymous in court proceedings.

Not publishing victim's names goes back to a psychological sense of shame. Our society looks at someone who was molested or raped differently than someone who was not. It can be considered shameful or embarrassing to be a rape victim. That theory is what needs to be changed.

Alleged victims and accusers should not be able to hide behind embarrassment or shame. People who accuse others of crimes should have their identity known. I feel the same about anonymous tips...if the accused cannot face their accuser, how do we know there even was an accuser?
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Registration date : 2007-01-10

PostSubject: Naming names   Wed Jan 10, 2007 1:11 am

As the "inquiring editor" who started looking into this for our paper, it's been a real education. Very few papers I've contacted have written policies, and even those that do seem to use a "case-by-case" approach. Surprising, and somewhat disappointing.

I'll leave it to brighter minds than mine to discuss the merits of naming victims of sexual assault. To me, the larger and much more common problem is allowing police to routinely withhold the names of crime and vehicle accident victims, whether juvenile or adult, when the law clearly states we have the right to that information. Can't blame the cops too much on this one, either, since it seems few reporters or editors either know the law or bother to push the point.

With or without a written policy, whatever happened to the old-fashioned idea of naming names in crime and accident stories? What good is a public records law when nobody bothers to use it?
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Registration date : 2007-01-04

PostSubject: Police not giving names....   Wed Jan 17, 2007 12:10 am

I totally agree with the previous poster about police/law enforcement not giving names to the press for things such as accidents or crimes or whatever that have nothing to do with sexual crimes or children/minors.
Here in Elk Grove we routinely run into these issues with the police refusing to give out names for no reason whatsoever. It's been a problem and we're working through it. It's difficult for me to even comprehend why these police do not understand the law and the rights of the press.
If I remember correctly, a few years back, some Indiana newspapers joined together and did a cool investigative series on the practice of law enforcement never giving out info. they were required to under the state's sunshine laws/regulations.
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PostSubject: Re: What is your policy on publishing names of crime victims?   Wed Jan 17, 2007 8:27 pm

I just became aware of the report/investigative series coordinated by Californians Aware on the accessibility of public records from police, sheriff and CHP.
The study is remarkably similar to the one I referenced from Indiana in my previous post. I found it interesting the Elk Grove police received an ' F - ' grade. We have many, many problems with getting info. from them.
My question about this article and series is this: why was our newspaper not asked to participate.
The Bee is scaling back coverage in the suburbs due to their ill-timed, poorly handled purchase of Knight-Ridder. They recently eliminated one of their Elk Grove editions, they're eliminating staff, and will soon be cutting the other one.
Our paper is the main newspaper serving Elk Grove and we were not even notified about this survey/investigative piece.
Anyone have a similar situation?
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