News site says it published name of dead teen because it was already known on social media

DurhamRegion.com
After a 16-year-old boy died from being struck by a train in Oshawa, Ontario, police withheld his name and the family did not want it publicized. But the Oshawa This Week newspaper and affiliated DurhamRegion.com website published it anyway, citing the fact that “his friends and peers have turned to social media to share their condolences, identifying him in their messages.”

Many readers criticized the decision, leading Managing Editor Mike Johnston to explain in a column:

Within hours of his death last week friends were going online to express their sadness and their joy of having known him. … We learned his name from his friends and confirmed it within hours. … Many in the community already knew the name so we decided to include it. Our readers who don’t use Twitter or Facebook would have questioned who the victim was.

Columnist Reka Szekely weighed in later, saying that reporters “creeping” for information on Facebook is “a reality of modern news coverage.”

The prevalence of social media leaves us little choice but to publish the victim’s name in situations like this. … When information such as a victim’s name is shared via social media, it’s not shared between a closed network of friends or family members. It gets blasted out to the public where it can get re-tweeted and shared at an exponential rate.

Earlier: When crime victims tweet, new and old dilemmas meet for news organizations (Poynter)

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1613001911 Pete Bannan

    Go to the Cleveland Plains Dealer for the same issue with a student shooting fellow students. A student was ID’s by a victim but not police

  • http://tedschnell.blogspot.com/ Ted Schnell

    Sounds to me like the i’s were dotted and t’s were crossed in terms of good journalism. It looks as if the media verified the name properly, so where’s the controversy? What’s the difference here between picking up a bit of information in a coffee house and tracking it down as a story? There is no difference. Social media is part of the Internet cafe, and the journalists were paying attention.

  • Anonymous

    There is no difference in learning it “through social media” or learning it from people conversing in a coffee shop. People always seem to think that the Internet is diffrerent, when all it is is another place for interation. The same rules apply.