But as Peter Parker's Uncle Ben wisely imparted in the pages of Spiderman: "With great power, comes great responsibility." Sadly, that lesson was lost with the publication by City Paper on May 14, 2014 in an article boldly announcing "CP Photographer Accused of Raping His Daughter" (Mobtown Beat). While it is important to acknowledge the voices of the youngest victims, a level of dignity and decency is required to protect all parties.
Journalists should show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage. Use special sensitivity when dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects; to be cautious about identifying juvenile suspects or victims of sex crimes; and to show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.
Unfortunately, with the publication of this story, such discretion and adherence to ethical standards did not occur. The entire police report involving the alleged rape of a child was transcribed into the article. Merely omitting the child's name does nothing to obscure identity in the digital age when mother and father are both named, as well as witnesses with their places of employment. City Paper refers to the alleged perpetrator as "award-winning" twice in the article, and the only quote in the story comes from his attorney who claims that "false allegations in cases such as this are not unusual." If City Paper had checked the accuracy of such a statement, the reporter would have discovered that only four percent of all unsubstantiated reports in allegations of abuse when parents separate were intentionally false and that none of these false allegations were made by children, as Trocmé and Bala shared in their 2005 research study, "Child Abuse and Neglect." The truth of the matter is that nationally one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused by the time they're 18. In fact, Baltimore Child Abuse Center sees approximately 1,000 such cases annually.
It is peculiar as to why this specific case would get so much real estate in City Paper when these crimes, unfortunately, happen each and every day but are rarely reported on. And one should question the decision to publish a story that so blatantly supports the case of one of their staff members, using the newspaper to potentially influence the jury and perhaps even to discourage the child victim from participating in this matter to avoid further media coverage. City Paper's indirect attack on this victim may not only lead to the child feeling unprotected, but it also re-victimizes the child and has the potential to cause significant emotional and psychological trauma. I shudder at the thought of other child victims of rape and abuse and their parents, now reluctant to come forward for fear of seeing their case detailed in black and white on the pages of City Paper. Media cooperated with Baltimore County police this week when a man barricaded himself inside WMAR for fear of alerting the suspect to police activity; if given the opportunity, would City Paper have published details of the crime scene just to sell papers?
This is yellow journalism at its worst. Shame on you, City Paper, for making a very poor decision in running such a biased story in what looks like an attempt to tamper with an active criminal prosecution involving one of your own. While your application of the First Amendment enables you to make such a poor decision, it also affords the rest of us with a plethora of other choices when it comes to news. And so I will choose and encourage others to choose to exercise their freedoms by using City Paper to line the cat's litter box and select other news sources to patronize and read instead.
Finally, I implore City Paper to issue an apology to child victims of sexual abuse and their families and to commit to the Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics as a means of ensuring journalistic integrity in the future. Please contact me if you are interested in learning more about the dynamics of these difficult cases and their impact on children and Baltimore. I look forward to the conversation.
Executive Director, Baltimore Child Abuse Center
I am writing to express my concern and disgust concerning the article "CP Photographer Accused of Raping His Daughter." I am the President of the Board of Directors for the Baltimore Child Abuse Center. I am also a mother, and your article raised every protective instinct in me in both capacities. I would like to know what City Paper's policy is with regard to publishing the identity of children who are victims of child sex abuse. The article does everything to identify the victim, but publish the victim's name. It is intellectually dishonest to think that this article protects the victim's privacy in any way.
Moreover, I fear that any individual who is a victim of sex abuse would see this article and decide not to disclose their trauma for fear of being outed in City Paper. I also fail to see how this article advances the interests of the public's right to know verses the invasion of a child victim's right to privacy. The mere fact that the individual accused of this crime is an "award winning" photographer for City Paper does not make this more of a story than the hundreds of other cases of sexual abuse that City Paper fails to luridly write about in any given year.
If the purpose of this article was to re-victimize a child victim of sexual abuse, then congratulations, you have accomplished your goal. If the purpose of this article was to influence other victims to think twice before disclosing that they are victims of a horrible crime, then congratulations again. If, on the other hand, the purpose of this article was to publish an informative, neutral article about the impact of sexual abuse on its victims and on our city, then you have failed miserably.
As I teach my children every day-if you make a mistake own it and correct it. I am inviting you and your staff to the Baltimore Child Abuse Center to take a tour and to learn about the wonderful things that BCAC does to help heal the families who come through our doors. I also invite you to write an apology to the child victims of sexual abuse and to their families. It is the least you can do.
Catherine Schuster Pascale