Today the Providence Journal reports a horrific home invasion and rape of a pregnant woman in Central Falls. The victim’s nine year old son witnessed the crime. He is a victim too. Following long-standing editorial policy, the Journal did not disclose the name of the victim. Instead they published her address, along with a helpful link to Google Maps. The attackers are still at large.
Reading between the lines, drugs may have been involved. I don’t care. It sounds like the victim is cooperating and the police have some leads.
Every so often, someone questions the Journal policy of publishing the names and addresses of people who report crimes. I remember when a Journal employee out jogging in Pawtuxet was punched out by some guys he didn’t know. The Journal printed his name, address and place of work.
The Journal defended their policy, saying that naming names deters false reports. For sure, and deters true ones too. A reporter said to me, ‘some of these old ladies leave their windows open.’ Well, the Journal will teach them a lesson, I guess.
Here is another story from today. I’ve blocked out identifiers…
PAWTUCKET, R.I. — A Pawtucket man was shot in the foot late Monday night, said Major Arthur Martins of the Pawtucket Police Department.
At midnight, the police received a call from Miriam Hospital reporting a man had been admitted with a gun-shot wound to his foot, Martins said.
The man, [name, age, address], said he was shot around 11:30 p.m. in front of a closed convenience store at ——-, Martins said.
“We went to the area he said this occurred and did not find any shell casings or any people who reported hearing shots fired,” Martins said. “We are not saying it didn’t happen there; we just don’t have definitive proof.”
——-told officers he was walking down West Avenue, saw a car drive past him, turn around and approach him, Martins said. —— said he saw the car’s window go down and then heard four shots fired, Martins said.
——— walked to the home of a friend, who drove him to the hospital, Martins said.
“He said he has no enemies and no idea who would shoot him.
If this was a case of mistaken identity, or random malice, the victim is at a disadvantage. He has no idea who shot him, but the shooter can find out where the victim lives, and also that he reported to the police.
A newspaper is not a conduit, like a storm sewer, where news flows to the lowest level. There’s editors and reporters and journalistic standards and discretion what they report and why. Our one major state newspaper stubbornly defends publishing information that could add to the stigma, and danger, suffered by crime victims. A nine year old boy has been outed for witnessing a crime against his mother. What public benefit is there to publishing his address? Is this universal newspaper practice?
We just got home from Louisville, Kentucky. Their major newspaper has a website that
lists every police report for every neighborhood. It’s a great tool for citizens who want to be aware of what’s happening and which kinds of crimes are occurring where. But they don’t list names or addresses. The Louisville Courier-Journal crime reports look like this…
Details about case 80-11-049478
ASSAULT – 4TH DEGREE (MINOR INJURY)
8500 BLOCK OF KIMBERLY WAY
DATE: JUNE 26, 2011
TIME: 4:12 AM
This isn’t complicated. We have a right and a need to know what is happening where. In the case of a major crime like this awful home invasion I want to know which part of Central Falls. But I think of that woman and her little boy and wonder if they have a safe place to live. I think about neighbors and classmates and lost privacy. I think about cars cruising by in the night, about people who get off on crime and people who might want to scare away witnesses. And I wonder why the Journal stubbornly refuses to consider the safety and dignity of crime victims when they make their policies.
UPDATE: I asked in the comments to the story in ProJo online why they printed the address and got a quick response saying it has been removed. Thank you, ProJo.
SUSPECT IN CUSTODY: They have a suspect, the above link has details.