Baseball91's Weblog

September 2, 2012

Naming Names

Filed under: Minneapolis Star Tribune — baseball91 @ 8:22 PM
Tags: , ,

Standards of care. Standards of journalism. Nancy Barnes as editor of the Minneapolis StarTrib today writes of the violations off the standards of care. To edit her piece today:

“The case of the arrest of Todd Hoffner, the Mankato-State football coach, with charges filed against thim for child pornography, has produced some difficult choices for media organizations in this era of viral news. Hoffner was initially arrested before the county attorney could file charges.

“Whether to name him was the first question of the evening. Like that of many organizations, the Star Tribune’s policy is, unless in extenuating circumstances or in a high-profile case where the facts are widely known, not to name names – until somone is charged. When a suspect is held for a period of time without charges, the Star Tribune faces the question of whether to name a suspect. Concerning the reputation of an innocent person which can be irreparably marred if never charged, that decision to name names must be made by a top editor.” (Like the top editor has the best judgment.)

“Given his position, as well as the fact of his arrest was widely known, his arrested was made in public, the Startrib chose to name him in the first story about his arrest. Upon examining the details, we knew that he had been publicly escorted off his practice field.” (How?) “An initial Internet search produced half a dozen news stories, including the details of his arrest.” (And the veracity of others people’s stories came from what sources?)

“A far more difficult decision came with the Star Tribune’s policy not to name the victims of alleged sexual abuse (or pornography) if withholding their names would protect the identity of the victim. When the legal documents were released to the public, and actiually reviewed, Hoffner had his three children dancing naked on his cell phone (based upon the nature of the videos per the counts in the criminal complaint.)

“The first story relating to the two counts alleged in the criminal complaint against Hoffner were posted on the Startrib website without including the fact that it was his own children in the videos on his phone. Then the debate began.”

“The two counts alleged in the criminal complaint which WE read described the activity depicted in the three videos. The editor in charge of the story argued that it would be impossible to cover the case without citing that fact that these were family videos which would be the heart of this case. (And the veracity that these were his own kids came from the district attorney prosecuting the case?)

“”I want to know,’ the editor said, ‘what the wife has to say.’ Even the condition of Hoffner’s release hinged on whether Hoffner would have supervised or unsupervised visits with his own children. On the other hand, we wondered how the children would fare if this information was made public. (So why didn’t a reporter call the wife before running the story? And what group of people were wondering along with Nancy Barnes?)

“Once again, I did an Internet search to see what details were already public, and received a stark reminder that the viral nature of news in this era often takes these decisions out of our hands. Many news organizations in the Mankato area already had noted that the videos in question were of Hoffner’s children, and a person could easily find several Internet links with that information.” (So the journalistic standards are now based upon what the editor finds in other people’s stories, and the veracity in these Startribune article is like the Saint Paul Crime Lab.)

“We did not think readers could understand this story without knowing that the videos were of Hoffner’s children, but most important, we did not believe that the Star Tribune could protect Hoffner’s children in this instance. (So the duty to protect the Hoffner chidren had fallen to the Startribune?)

“At the same time, we knew readers would be upset if we didn’t treat the children with great care. Consequently, we instructed our editors that they could include this information in our story — but low in the story, not in the headline or lead.” (So the standard of journalism now include a concern about upsetting readers? And the placement of information low in the story somehow protected what were one-time standards of carer?)

“I share this with you because, as we anticipated, a number of readers called and wrote, worried about the impact of these stories on Hoffner’s children. I want readers to understand that we share your concerns and do not make these decisions without a great deal of thought and discussion, knowing that not everyone will agree with our call.”

This case poses some lasting questions for the Startrib concerning how it intends to be competing in the era of viral news, or when you lower your standards to the lowest common denominator. When you no longer had thoughtful people on your staff to ask the kind of questions which I have, before you go to press.


1 Comment »

  1. The mob. So the logic of the head editor of the news. About her decision based on not true journalism but the mob? “The viral nature of news in this era, often takes these decisions out of our hands [Pontius Pilate]. Many news organizations in the Mankato area already had noted that the videos…..”

    In a democracy, where the majority ruled, some journalists argue to try and justify why to print a story never true, with recurrence of a story that leads to false truth. That incites the mob. With the placement of a paragraph that maybe no one would notice, “we instructed our editors that they could include this information in our story — but low in the story, not in the headline or lead.”

    Treating people like IT. A lot like in criticism that has come down on the issue of police brutality. The ‘lowest of the low’ policy, under Nancy Barnes as editor of the Minneapolis StarTrib.

    It should be about more than just warnings concerning the evil of the world, real reporting is more about real people and actually getting close enough to discover the Truth.

    It took more than four months, but a judge in Blue Earth County dismissed the charges against this football coach. After all the collateral damage had been done by the cold ruthless media, by the district attorney trying in some way to profit off the news, by the mob to the family of Todd Hoffner, as this football coach was fired by Minnesota State-Mankato.

    #Nancy_Barnes #Startrib #Mankato-State

    Comment by paperlessworld — June 18, 2017 @ 11:33 AM | Reply

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