Sunday, January 28, 2007

What's in a name?

A lot, if you're the woman who accused three Duke lacrosse players of sexual assault.

Mainstream media have yet to name her, though several websites have. Poynter's Kelly McBride asks whether we should divulge her name and considers three guiding principles that may lead to different answers:

1. report the truth as fully as possible (you'll report the name)
2. remaining independent (perhaps you'll report the name)
3. minimizing harm (you won't report the name)

We report the truth as fully as possible because we assume the information we put forth is important or relevant to our audience. Surely the woman's family will be affected by this, but will anybody else? Isn't name-dropping - in this case - just gossiping?

So, you say, the lacrosse players may have been wrongfully accused, isn't it appropriate to name the woman who has all but destroyed their reputations? No. It is certainly not our jobs to avenge someone else's wrong-doing. And if the boys are, in fact, guilty of committing a crime we put the victim at risk.

My point is: I can think of no argument to convince me that a news outlet would be justified in naming the accusor. Agree or disagree?

Sorry for the tardiness,



At Sunday, January 28, 2007, Blogger Medill Media Watch said...

It's funny you bring this up, TB. We have discussed this in the Sports and Society seminar.

For 20 minutes the class listed dozens of reasons why it would be horrible to reveal the name of the victim. But our instructor then asked what feminists might think about revealing the name.

Well we all assumed they would disapprove. Not the case. Feminists believe that so-called protecting the victim by not revealing the name is patronizing. They feel that name disclosure proves the victim is not emotionally destroyed, and is not "damaged goods."

I thought it was an interesting argument.



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