By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Journalism ethics in real time

Melissa Bailey

Melissa Bailey

Melissa Bailey, the managing editor of the New Haven Independent, has written a fascinating story for Slate’s Double X on the steps she took to protect the identities of the fiancée and the ex-girlfriend of Raymond Clark, who’s been charged with the murder of Yale University student Annie Le. Bailey writes:

We learned the girlfriend’s identity, as well as the names of Clark and his current fiancee, before their identities were public. This was in the days after Le had disappeared but before her body was found, when slews of national reporters had descended on our city to find clues to the killing. As we chased the story, I wanted to break news — that’s my job. But I also wanted to shield the women caught up in the case from an onslaught of judgment and national attention that would make things harder for them.

Bailey writes about the decision to use material from the women’s Facebook and MySpace pages even while withholding their names. The Independent also withheld Clark’s name until he had been formally charged, even after New Haven police put it in a press release and repeated it at a news conference.

Her essay is an interesting, close-up look at applied journalism ethics. I’m not sure whether I’d have made the same calls as the Independent. But I’m impressed at how much thought went into Bailey’s and editor Paul Bass’ decision-making.

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1 Comment

  1. Neil

    Bailey refers to the ex-girlfriend’s Facebook comment, made the day Clark was named a suspect, as an “intimate note”. Where “intimate” means shared with a mere 350 friends. These are also referred to as “private” posts.

    The ex-girlfriend accepted a friend request from Bailey without even knowing who she was. The notion that something published to 350 people might possibly be considered “private” or “intimate” is crazy.

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