NY Times Public Editor Examines Paper's Duke Coverage

New York Times Public Editor Byron Calame today examines the paper's coverage of the Duke Lacrosse players false sexual assault charges.

At one point he discusses whether the false accuser should be named now. He concludes:

Times editors discussed whether “to stick to our policy of not naming accusers in sexual assault cases,” Mr. Keller told me, “and decided to do so.” My first instinct was that The Times should strongly consider adopting a policy of naming false accusers. Then I decided that the mental health of the Duke accuser and the failure of Mr. Nifong to limit the harm she caused by doing his job responsibly combined to keep this case from being a good one on which to debate such a policy change. But I hope Times editors will soon consider holding a discussion, free of deadline pressure, about what purpose the tradition of not naming sexual assault victims serves when their accusations are proved to have no merit.

I disagree. The moment the charges were dismissed, upon the Attorney General's finding there was no credible evidence to support her claim that any attack occurred that night, she became a false accuser. Her name should be published so that she can no longer hide behind the victim label. Mentally ill or not, she caused incalculable damage to the lives and reputations of three innocent young men, who will be traumatized by the ordeal for years to come.


She's not being charged with false reporting because her mental state may be such that she actually believes in her inconsistent versions of events that never happened. That's enough of a benefit. There should be consequences. If she's not going to be charged with a crime, then publishing her name as a deterrent to others is appropriate in my view.

Alternatively, as I've suggested many times, the media should adopt an either or both policy: If they publish the name of the accused, they should publish the name of the accuser. If they won't publish the name of the accuser, they shouldn't publish the name of the accused.

Rape is a crime of violence, similar to a stabbing. Once it is viewed as such by the public, it could lead to a lessening of an actual victim's perceived shame or reticence in reporting it.

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    Yeah, both sides, now. (none / 0) (#1)
    by walt on Sun Apr 22, 2007 at 12:53:50 AM EST
    It seems as if reporting all the names would have some merit if it weren't for the sensationalism of what passes for media now.  I'm in mind of O'Reilly's "hounding" of some reported child molester in Vermont.  Hiding behind a sort of journalist's mantle of respectability, the TV show totally misrepresented the actual nature of the justice process.

    There may be some useful comparisons to the juvenile justice practices in evaluating this.

    In my opinion, an accused sexual offender is as easily harmed in public identification as the accuser, who may or may not be a victim.

    Even so, as with Calame, this Duke Univ. hash up is not a useful starting point for a discussion.

    So now (none / 0) (#2)
    by roger on Sun Apr 22, 2007 at 07:06:10 AM EST
    She can still get jobs at parties, stripping, and no one will know how much danger they are in when she shows up?

    Naming her would be a public serice

    I tend to agree with you, (none / 0) (#3)
    by Deconstructionist on Sun Apr 22, 2007 at 09:43:48 AM EST
     as to identifying people shown to have made false accusations, but the Times deserves credit for stating its reasons so that people can understand the basis for the decision and then decide for themselves whether they agree.

       On the other hand, your opinion that accuser and the accused should be treated the same from the outset seems cruel and illogical. Your stated rationale-- that doing so might eventually lessen the trauma some future victims feel in the aftermath of an attack and increase the likelihood real victims would report attacks seems both extremely farfetched and blind to the harm that might be inflicted on victims and the likelihood it would inhibit reporting  in the time before your surmised beneficial effect comes to pass.

    Attack of the killer strippers (none / 0) (#4)
    by Che's Lounge on Sun Apr 22, 2007 at 09:54:39 AM EST
    She can still get jobs at parties, stripping, and no one will know how much danger they are in when she shows up?

    What danger? There was no violent intent (on the part of the accuser). Danger to a reputation? Well that's no longer a danger. If she tries this again, you think she'll have any credibility?

    At this point, now that all is done, it's ridiculous and vengeful to publish her name. If someone wants to sue someone else, have at it. Publishing her name now is nothing more than retribution for a stupid (and granted, illegal) act. But there was no shortage of stupidity on both sides. All young people. In other words, a complete absence of common sense led to this mess.

    Speaking of reputations, let's see what the victims of this act are doing in 10 years. Think their lives are ruined? I don't. If they applied for a job with me, I wouldn't know them from Adam.

    the practice of not naming the adult (none / 0) (#5)
    by cpinva on Sun Apr 22, 2007 at 10:35:42 AM EST
    victims of sexual assault, usually female, is merely a continuation of the historical practice of treating women like children. consider that it parallels the common practice of not naming juvenile offenders and victims, for fear of the damage it might do to their more delicate psyches.

    in essence, women, in the guise of being shielded from............what? are being treated like children by the press. note that it is males making this policy decision, for the most part, not women. that's because most of these organizations are still patriarchal in nature; daddy knows best.

    as long as women continue to hide behind the wall of their "child-like" frailty, they shouldn't be at all surprised to find themselves treated like children in the larger context of society. it's the nature of the beast.

    A lot to learn (none / 0) (#6)
    by chemoelectric on Sun Apr 22, 2007 at 03:24:20 PM EST
    If they publish the name of the accused, they should publish the name of the accuser. If they won't publish the name of the accuser, they shouldn't publish the name of the accused.

    A classic non sequitur.

    Lay off the psychiatrically ill, you can't make it go away by punishing it. Lay off it! Push on it and you'll just create more misery. Then burn Nifong's butt. It's the lawyers and judges that need to learn their lessons.

    Agree totally with naming her (none / 0) (#7)
    by libertarian soldier on Sun Apr 22, 2007 at 04:46:02 PM EST
    Where is the recommend button?  Oops, wrong blog.