30 May 4. How have similar complaints in the past been dealt with?
Posted at 13:01h in The ethics of covering sexual violence: how much detail is too much detail?
- 2019: Powell vs Toronto Sun, released on January 14, 2020: The NNC stated that the Toronto Sun article published on November 6, 2019, “Man, 52, accused of sexually assaulting three children,” by Sam Pazzano, included explicit details of six specific incidents of sexual assault, and referenced details of the victims and their family. The complainant, Louise Powell, argued the details in the article were insensitive to the victims. Powell also questioned how certain details were obtained. The Toronto Sun responded to the complaint by removing such details two days after its original publication date. However, the publication failed to notify its readers about the corrections. So while the NNC acknowledged that the Toronto Sun took corrective action to resolve the complaint, it also pointed out that The Sun failed to be transparent in its use of sources and the corrections – in other words, they did not notify readers about the corrections.1“2019-96: Powell vs Toronto Sun.” National NewsMedia Council, 14 January, 2020. https://www.mediacouncil.ca/decisions/2019-96-powell-vs-toronto-sun/. News release.
- 2019-07: A.B. vs Soo Today, released on February 20, 2019: The NNC stated that they have considered and upheld two complaints about a news article published in Soo Today, a news outlet based in Sault Saint Marie, Ontario on December 18, 2018. The article reported on the sentencing of two men who were found guilty of sexually assaulting a minor. The article described the graphic details of the assault based on the information from the judge’s sentencing decision. The article also included details of the victim including the date and the location of the assault, the age of the victim, and the event that the victim attended before the assault. The editorial staff included a content warning and an editor’s note explaining the graphic nature of the article at the top and disabled the comment section. The NNC found that these details were enough to identify the individual considering the case. Although the NNC did not question the accuracy of the report, they raised concerns about the graphic and explicit details about the attack and the victim. The NNC also emphasized that journalistic standards call for a further level of sensitivity when reporting on cases involving children and minors. They also pointed out how certain details of the victim can identify them in the local and community reporting. The NNC also explained how the graphic nature and the details provided within the article could potentially overshadow the focus of the article, which was the sentencing of the two assailants.2“2019-07: A.B. vs Soo Today.” National NewsMedia Council, 20 February (year not provided), https://www.mediacouncil.ca/decisions/2019-07-a-b-vs-soo-today/. News release.
- 2016-11 Rex vs Prince George Citizen, released on February 17, 2016: The NNC dismissed this complaint about the reporting of a sexual assault case and the handling of the comment section by the Prince George Citizen, a weekly newspaper in Prince George, British Columbia. The complainant Stephanie Rex argued that the details presented in the article were sufficient to identify the victim and their family. Rex also voiced her concern that articles related to Indigenous people can create an opportunity for racist commentaries, and that the comment section should be closed. The publication said it complied with the publication ban and denied that the details provided in the complaint were sufficient to identify the victim. The publication also explained that after receiving a phone call and an email from other concerned readers, they disabled the comments section, 11 hours after the story was published. The editor stated that he is open to further discussion on ways to improve reporting on cases like these in the future. After considering all these points, the NNC dismissed the complaint. The NNC also noted that the Prince George Citizen provided an editorial examining the issues around handling similar stories.3“2016-11 Rex vs Prince George Citizen.” National NewsMedia Council, 17 February, 2016 https://www.mediacouncil.ca/decisions/2016-11-rex-vs-prince-george-citizen/. News release.
- 1“2019-96: Powell vs Toronto Sun.” National NewsMedia Council, 14 January, 2020. https://www.mediacouncil.ca/decisions/2019-96-powell-vs-toronto-sun/. News release.
- 2“2019-07: A.B. vs Soo Today.” National NewsMedia Council, 20 February (year not provided), https://www.mediacouncil.ca/decisions/2019-07-a-b-vs-soo-today/. News release.
- 3“2016-11 Rex vs Prince George Citizen.” National NewsMedia Council, 17 February, 2016 https://www.mediacouncil.ca/decisions/2016-11-rex-vs-prince-george-citizen/. News release.