roeper gives media policy thumbs down
I commented on this to my lovely wife over the weekend. The case of a pair of California teenagers who were abducted and rescued--apparently minutes away from death--received national attention, including the names and photos of the kidnapped girls. Doing so made perfect sense, of course; alerting the public might increase the likelihood that they could be rescued. But after authorities announced that they had been rapes, the Associated Press, in accordance with its policy, stopped identifying the pair by name. Then 16-year-old Tamara Brooks and 17-year-old Jacqueline Marris appeared on television to discuss the ordeal, so they once again were identified, having agreed to come forward.
This case raises two thorny questions. One concerns the policy in general. I believe that the AP is trying to be sensitive to women who have undergone a traumatic ordeal, but by according anonymity to the victims of this terrible crime, I think the press is perpetuating the notion that rape is somehow particularly shameful, and it shouldn't be.
Then, of course, is the now-you-see-it-now-you-don't contortions the press went through in the case of these two girls, whose names and faces appeared on national media when they were missing, but when the specifics of the offenses against them surfaced, were rendered anonymous and had their faces pixellated out of video footage. (And the fact that both girls were legal minors complicates matters further.) Chicago Sun-Times columnist Richard Roeper (yes, the film critic) points out the absurdity of trying to "put the toothpaste back in the tube."
At least as far as these two girls are concerned, I'd be much more inclined to use the term "hero" than "victim"--they supported each other and did their best to attack their adbuctor and escape.
I don't pretend to have the answers. But the surreal contortions the media underwent over the weekend as it strove to conform with its policy certainly is food for thougt.
(via MetaFilter, where there's an interesting discussion thread in which people with many perspectives weigh in)