This column was filed Sept. 9, but publication was delayed as a result of review and discussion by editors and the travel schedule of the author.
(Name withheld by editors) is taking her case against Kobe Bryant out of the criminal court and into civil court in Colorado, and it is time her name became standard media usage – instead of being reserved for radio shockjocks, Internet hitmen, Kobe Bryant’s attorney (who “mistakenly” used her name repeatedly in court) or the documents (with her name and address) that the court accidentally put online.
As I wrote in a Washington Post op-ed, “Her voluntary step further into the public limelight makes appropriate a unified move by editors to cease the conceit of this naming taboo. Thus freed from a debate of little meaning, journalists could move on to discuss a terribly meaningful one: how to cover rape trials with sensitivity, balance, fairness, a concentration on fact over rumor.”
The name of the accuser in this case has been removed by Poynter Online editors. After doing a first read on the column, editors Julie Moos and Bill Mitchell met with a group of about 25 Poynter faculty and staff to discuss the issue: Under what circumstances should Poynter consider naming the accuser in this case?
The discussion was not to seek consensus, but to inform our decision. Our conclusion: Based on what we know at this point, we believe the journalistic purpose to be achieved by naming the accuser is outweighed by the potential harm that could result from doing so. We gladly present conflicting views, as we did with this column by Geneva that was published last year. But we are not willing to step beyond publishing opinion and take the action of publishing the accuser’s name.
This has created an unusual dilemma. Geneva is a valued friend of Poynter, a member of our National Advisory Board from 1993 to 2001 as well as the unpaid author of the weekly Journalism Junction column since November 2002. Citing several competing obligations as well as her principled disagreement with Poynter Online editors, Geneva has informed us that this will be her final column for Poynter. Explaining her decision, she said: “There is little to recommend continuing to write the column for Poynter unless I can say what I believe.”
– Bill Mitchell Read more