NVAA 2000 Text

Chapter 18 Supplement The News Media's Coverage of

Crime and Victimization

Statistical Overview

Promising Practices

The text of the card, which reporters can hand to victims or leave with a friend or family member, says:

I am a news reporter, and I would like to interview you. I understand that you or someone close to you has been the victim of a crime, or you were a witness to a crime. I do not intend to add to the difficulties you are now facing. My job is to inform members of the public about crimes so that they may protect themselves from becoming victims in the future, and to inform them of the progress police make investigating and solving such crimes.

If you do not wish to talk with me now, you may call later at the number below.

______________________________ _____________________________

Reporter's Name Telephone #


News Organization

Victim service providers and justice professionals can inform their community's news media about the availability of the SPJ Crime Victims Card, which can be ordered from the Washington, D.C. SPJ chapter at P.O. Box 19555, Washington, DC 20036-0555.

Of special note, the program provides research that gathers data on professional policies and practices, monitors news coverage of victims, assesses how journalists attempt to deal with trauma, and develops guidelines for journalists who report on crime and outreach through the "victims and the media response team." The response team, comprised of faculty, journalists, therapists, victims, and victim advocates, provides instruction on victim issues and debriefs journalists who suffer from the stress of reporting on incidents of violence.

According to their Web site, the MSU Victims and the Media program is a promising partnership that makes a significant difference in how the journalists of today and in the future cover issues of crime and victimization. The Web site address is <http://victims.

jrn.msu.edu/> (MSU School of Journalism April 2000).


To address the "privacy concerns (that) apply to average citizens who are suddenly caught in the news by virtue of a tragedy or their connection to an otherwise newsworthy event," the Poynter Institute developed a series of important questions journalists should ask themselves as they balance the public's need to know with an individual's right to privacy:

1. What is my journalistic purpose in seeking this information? In reporting it?

2. Does the public have a justifiable need to know? Or is this matter just one in which some want to know?

3. How much protection does this person deserve? Is this person a public official, public figure, or celebrity? Is this person involved in the news event by choice or by chance?

4. What is the nature of harm I might cause by intruding on someone's privacy?

5. Can I cause considerable harm to someone just by asking questions, observing activity, or obtaining information even if I never actually report the story?

6. How can I better understand this person's vulnerability and desire for privacy? Can I make a better decision by talking with this person?

7. What alternative approaches can I take in my reporting and my storytelling to minimize the harm of privacy invasion while still fulfilling my journalistic duty to inform the public? For instance, can I leave out some "private" matters while still accurately and fairly reporting the story? Or can I focus more on a system failure issue rather than reporting intensely on one individual? (Steele 1999)

Chapter 18 Supplement References

Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA). 1997a. In 1990s TV News Turns to Violence and Show Biz, press release. Washington, DC: Author.

Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA). 1997b. Tabloid TV Is Bad News for Kids, press release. Washington, DC: Author.

Michigan State University (MSU) School of Journalism. 2000. Victims and the Media Overview. <http://victims.jrn.msu.edu/overview.html>.

Steele, B. 1999. Respecting Privacy Guidelines. St. Petersburg, FL: Poynter Institute.

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2000 NVAA Text
Chapter 17
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