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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