This paper aims to describe journalistic mistreatment of crime victims, their relatives, and witnesses. The assessment is based on the model proposed by Emilio Viano, who argues that journalists may immensely imperil the safety of the victim and his or her mental health (Viano, 1992). We have viewed news reports issued by CNN, FOX News, and MSN. The following table presents examples of such unethical behaviour.
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|Felony||Location||Date incident||Description of mistreatment|
|Rape||California, Richmond||October 17th, 2009||In this case, CNN journalists deliberately disclosed the details of victimization. In particular, he stressed several times that it had been a gang-rape, involving more than ten participants. It seems that such information should not be revealed to the general public. First, it has not been confirmed yet. Secondly, the victim may be reluctant to tell anyone about it.|
|Arson||New Jersey||October 17th, 2009||The reporter tried to interview the people whose house was set afire. Judging from their reaction, they were unwilling to speak or make any comments|
|Murder||Boston||October, 18thm 2009||CNN showed the picture of the victim (a nine-year-old girl) as well as told her name. This could be hurtful for the parents of this child.|
|Assault||Washington||October 18th, 2009||The reporters showed the picture of a heavily beaten man.|
|Armed Robbery||New York||October 18th, 2009||CNN reports broadcasted a videotape, filming armed robbery. The journalist reported unconfirmed innuendo that the victim could have been hypothetically connected with the robber|
Judging from these results we may say that present-day reporters do not always adhere to the principles of their professional ethics. The following table illustrates the cases when print media can harm the individual who has been victimized. For the analysis, we have used the articles which have been published by one of the largest American newspapers the New York Times
|Felony||Date||Location||Description of mistreatment||Author|
|Murder||October 24th, 2009||New York, Brooklyn||First, this article contains the photograph of the child who was killed and the names of those people, who might be involved. Secondly, its title explicitly suggests the mother could be involved in this case. However, this claim has not been fully substantiated.||Al Baker “Mother and companion charged with murder”|
|Assault||October 24th, 2009||New York||First, the correspondent discloses the name and age of the participants, including the victim and alleged criminal.||Joseph Berger “Beating Followed Molesting, Police Say”|
|Murder||October 24th, 2009||New Jersey||Graphically describing the victim||Al Baker and Net Schweber |
“The Priest is found slain in New Jersey”
|Rape||October 17th, 2009.||California, Richmond||Publicizing the victimization and disclosure of the information which has not been fully confirmed||The Associated Press “California: 5 Held on Rape Charges in Attack on Girl |
|Fraud||October 23rd, 2009||New York||Discredit the witness||Ashlee Vance “Witness in Galleon Case Is Said to Have History of Passing Secrets |
Practically of these examples point to a very dangerous tendency among the US mass media. First, practically all of them tend to rely on data that has not been fully verified. Given the fact, that all these cases are still being investigated, the journalist should not reveal some of the facts to the public. Another feature, which immediately attracts attraction, is that mass media usually try to create a sensation by disclosing the most shocking details of the crime. The most glaring evidence is the gang-rape of a teenager in California. Moreover, practically in all cases, the reporters do not mention that their sources may be unreliable. Finally, the privacy of many victims appears to be of no concern for the reporters.
Viano, E. (1992) Critical issues in victimology: international perspectives. New York: Springer.