Category Archives: Ethics

Proof Journalism STILL Matters

Journalism matters.

Journalists are still working to hold those in power accountable for their actions. They are still “giving voice to the voiceless,” as the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics prescribes.

For anyone who doubts that, take a look at the New York Times story on a sexual complaint at Hobart and William Smith Colleges and the changes it is causing.

Case in point: A group of U.S. Senators from BOTH political parties have agreed on at least one thing — Something has to change. Colleges need to be held accountable for how they handle sexual assault complaints. There should never be another Anna, the name of the gang rape victim in the Times story.

The bill the senators have proposed includes requirements for sexual assault investigations and financial punishments for colleges who fail to follow the rules. 

If you have yet to read the Times story, I urge you to do so for two reasons: It is good journalism and it is written by Walt Bogdanich, a multiple Pulitzer Prize winner.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he won a fourth Pulitzer Prize for his work on this story.

I’m going to be using this story as an example in my journalism classes. Old school journalism — interviews, records, verification and story-telling — still make a difference today. Just ask Anna.

 

Name 14-year-old accused of shooting cop?

A police officer in Rochester, NY, was shot in the head while walking away from a group that police had questioned but not arrested.  Three days later, a 14-year-old turns himself into police, according to police and judicial officials at a press conference. They did not name him during the press conference.

The child (and to me, a 14-year-old is a child, not a man) pleaded not guilty to first-degree assault and second-degree attempted murder. Although charged as a juvenile, his case is in adult court and his name was in The Democrat & Chronicle’s news story Feb. 4 and his photo was on the web site. His face and name were also all over R-News, WHEC-TVWOKR-TV and WROC-TV.

The child had been in trouble with the law before this and had not reported to the people supervising him since April 2008, according to the D&C. The D&C’s editorial board is right to ask, “How is it that a 14-year-old can go for nearly a year without reporting for adult supervision as required?”

I’m not sure, however, that the D&C and other Rochester area news media are right to use this child’s name and image. He is innocent until proven guilty and he is 14. Just because journalists have the name and image does not mean they should use them.

The shooting has been an emotional story that has gripped the Rochester, NY, region. Prayers, donations and messages of support for the police officer and his family rightfully abound.

My concern is that, after the media coverage, this child, regardless of the verdict, will never be seen as anything but an attempted cop killer. Some of the people posting reactions to today’s D&C story are already calling for the death penalty and talking as if he has been convicted. This child has already been sentenced for life.