November 4, 2003

Jeffrey Rodack is the Managing Editor of Globe, which recently published the name and picture of the woman accusing Kobe Bryant of rape. He is the former City Editor of the Sun-Sentinel, a Tribune Company newspaper in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and previously worked as an assistant city editor in the Scripps-Howard newspaper group. He is a former award-winning reporter with 30 years of journalism experience. Here he responds to Kelly McBride’s column on Globe‘s decision to identify Bryant’s accuser.

I called my 25-year-old son, who works for a marketing agency in Los Angeles, and told him we were thinking of naming the young woman who is accusing Kobe Bryant of rape.

Without hesitating, he blurted out her name.

It should be noted he is not a Bryant fan and has never watched a Lakers game in his life nor, for that matter, any NBA game.

But, like millions of others, he lives on the Internet and notes her name has been out there for months.

Indeed it has. Her name — and assorted pictures — popped up more than 2,500 times in a Google search — and that’s BEFORE Globe published her name.

Anyone remotely interested in the case, and who has an Internet connection, has had access to her identity almost since the day the story first broke.

Aside from the thousands of mentions it received on the Internet, syndicated radio host Tom Leykis has repeatedly mentioned her name on his show. Bryant’s attorney, Pamela Mackey said her name six times in open court. And her name was even posted by court officials on an official website for a short time.

Diane Carman, a columnist for The Denver Post, writes: “The identity of the 19-year-old woman who has charged Kobe Bryant with rape was the worst-kept secret in America even before the Globe put her name and her prom picture on its cover last week.”

And reporter Peggy Lowe, in an article in the Rocky Mountain News, notes Globe confirmed “an open secret.”

The simple truth is that despite the decision of the nation’s editors to withhold information from their readers, many people have known the woman’s identity for quite some time.

This time, however, their information didn’t come from daily newspapers or broadcast television. People were forced to turn elsewhere for the information.

And before one of you can say you don’t care about people using the Internet to obtain information, let me point out most news organizations have their own websites specifically created to attract those very same people.

Despite all this, the self-appointed ethics and morality police among the nation’s journalists continue to deny their readers all the facts of the story they have covered since Day One.

Carman, in her column in the Post, asks: “Do we acknowledge that anybody who wants to know already has the woman’s name, and publish it? Or do we cling to our self-righteousness, go on publishing every tawdry detail about the woman’s psyche, her behavior, her sex life, even her underpants, and continue to conceal her name?”

Despite the fact that the nations’ newspapers continue to report on all aspects of the life of Bryant’s accuser, “even her underpants,” Kelly McBride of The Poynter Institute condemned Globe in a column on this website for “doing what tabloids do, pushing the boundaries of respectability in an effort to sell newspapers and get attention.”

I beg to differ.

Globe is doing what every newspaper in the United States has failed to do so far in the Bryant case — provide readers with ALL the information. The last time I looked that was supposed to be the mission of every journalist.

McBride also argues: “There is still no justification for journalists to deviate from the standard practice of granting this particular woman anonymity along with millions of other rape victims.”

Other rape victims?

The wording is rather alarming for someone questioning the ethics of Globe. It clearly implies the woman in question is a rape victim.

She is not — at least for now. She is someone accusing a man of rape, a horrible and demeaning crime.

It is interesting to note that rape is the only crime where journalists automatically presume the accused is guilty and reveal his name, yet go out of their way to protect the accuser. And, like Ms. McBride, they often refer to an accuser as a “victim” even though no finding of guilt or innocence has yet been made.

So, shame on you Ms. McBride. And shame on all you others who go out of your way to be “fair and ethical” while you continually condemn the accused in cases like this one and protect the accuser.
Your job is to provide information –- not to act as a jury.

But McBride’s comments are symptomatic of the overall problems with journalists and this case. I suggest it is time the nation’s editors stop applying 1950s morality to 2003 news gathering.

It simply doesn’t work. And your readers deserve more.

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