A PATRIOT-NEWS STATEMENT: On recent news stories about Jerry Sandusky and Victim One
Published: Wednesday, November 23, 2011, 4:03 PM Updated: Wednesday, November 23, 2011, 9:44 PM
By The Patriot-News
Journalists at a Nov. 7 press conference where Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly and State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan discuss the Jerry Sandusky child sex crimes investigation. CHRISTINE BAKER, The Patriot-News
By DAVID NEWHOUSE
From the very beginning of reporting on the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse story, Patriot-News reporter Sara Ganim knew the identity and many details about the young man known in the grand jury presentment as Victim One.
It is the policy of The Patriot-News and PennLive not to identify alleged victims of sexual abuse, whether children or adults.
In all of our reporting, we have been extremely careful not to reveal any of those details about Victim One which would help someone make that identification. Instead, through her stories and interviews, Sara Ganim put the focus where it should be - on the alleged crimes, the pain that this young man says he has suffered, and the alarming frustrations he and his mother describe in trying to report it.
But the Sandusky child sex abuse story has showed the difference between truly protecting the identity of a victim and the fiction of protecting the identity of a victim.
In Wednesday's story in The New York Times, for example, a profile entitled "For a Reported Penn State Victim, a Search for Trust," reporters Nate Schweber and Jo Becker write a profile so detailed that, even though they do not name him, googling certain information in the profile results in the young man's name within seconds. The Patriot-News has learned that other news organizations, which did not have the young man's name, have already done so.
Although the Times story has been all over the web, and of course the Times web site draws a huge amount of traffic on its own, we decline to link to it here.
The story quotes his next-door neighbor and names his neighborhood. It describes the detailed circumstances of a car accident which was reported in local papers at the time. It says he liked to wear tie-dyed socks.
None of these details have the slightest to do with why or how the boy was allegedly befriended and then assaulted over several years by Sandusky. They do not serve the story of Jerry Sandusky. They only serve to make an alleged victim of sexual assault easily identifiable.
You could call the anonymity maintained in the story a polite fiction, but there is nothing polite about it.
To be clear, the Times story is not alone. It is just the latest and most prominent example so far of such reporting.
The pledge of most news organizations to withhold the names of sexual assault victims - men and women, children and adults - is not some journalistic game of who can say the most while following some arbitrary rule. Most media have adopted it because, tragically, reporting sexual assaults still carries a stigma. It is no accident that Victim One was only the second boy to come forward to authorities in what is alleged to have been more than 15 years of assaults by Sandusky. Stories like these, if anything, could discourage future victims from speaking up.
Victim One told the grand jury that he had been victimized by Jerry Sandusky. Now one could argue that he is being victimized again - this time, by frenzied news media who essentially name the victim in the pursuit of salacious details, all done in the name of anonymity.
A PATRIOT-NEWS STATEMENT: On recent news stories about Jerry Sandusky and Victim One | PennLive.com