November 07, 2003

Naming Names: Geneva Overholser

Geneva Overholser of Poynter, a longtime advocate of reporting the names of everyone involved in a sexual assault case, argues, far more more eloquently than I am capable, that doing so upholds the best qualities of good journalism. She writes:

"When it comes to asking whether to use people's names, the journalistic ethic is clear: We name names. We do this for reasons of credibility and fairness. When we make exceptions to this ethic, we must be very careful indeed. To my mind, protecting children is a valid exception. Beyond that, we are on very thin ice. Of all the people who have valid reasons to prefer their names not be in the paper, how can we be wise enough to choose among them?

"... Happily for those of us who believe that openness is the best cure for ignorance, the porous nature of communications today seems about to render this naming issue moot.

"More happily still, we can then turn all this heat toward the eminently deserving journalistic debate of how we cover rape more fairly and honorably." (Emphasis added.)

As you know, I agree. More openness is better than less. Journalism improves with more disclosure, not less. My previous comments are here and here.

 Geneva Overholser Unraveling Rape Coverage

Posted by Tim Porter at November 7, 2003 07:11 AM