Saturday, October 2, 2010

Do You Show the Alleged Bad Guy Just Because Police Think He/ She is a Criminal?

A VILLANOVA UNIVERSITY student was killed on Wednesday when his car was struck by a stolen vehicle doing more than 100 mph. The stolen vehicle fled the scene but was later found by police.

On Thursday, police arrested a 21-year old West Philadelphia man whose fingerprint was found on the stolen vehicle. Police paraded the handcuffed man in front of the media, and the alleged perpetrator's image was run all over television, online and in newspapers.

"He entered the courtroom as wide-eyed as a preschooler and dressed like one, in a blue Cookie Monster hoodie," read the lead of the Daily News' story on Friday morning. "But Kenneth Woods is more monstrous than any Muppet, Delaware County authorities said yesterday."

But by Friday afternoon, police had another suspect in custody and they revealed that their original suspect was innocent. That left the media scrambling to clear Kenneth Woods' name. Both the Inquirer and Daily News put the corrective story on their front pages on Saturday.

And that raises the question: should the media should images and reveal the names of people SUSPECTED to be guilty of committing crimes? Or should the media wait until there is a conviction before they publish information?

Perp walks have been in existence for a long time but in the age of the Internet and 24/7 news, are the media rushing to publish and/ or air the story before all the facts are known?

Or should the media continue this practice? After all, they didn't claim the guy was guilty. The police are the ones who made the mistake.

Thoughts?

23 comments:

Emily Steck said...

Considering it is on-going investigation, information released should be based case by case. Sometimes, information released can positively and negatively effect an investigation. Perhaps if the suspect is a known figure, and be wanted for another crime, a name can be released. But with someone with just suspicion to the case, I think it very much damages the investigation and the coverage. It is very difficult for anyone now to associate someone suspected and arrested of crime to always be innocent. As far as the coverage, I think this case proves that in the media, it will always be guilty until proven innocent. Nancy Grace and other talk show hosts are a perfect example of this.

Julianna said...

I don't think it was fair of them to release that much information, but that's really on the cops for giving the media that much information. Also, more monstrous than Cookie Monster? That's a little much considering he was innocent anyway.

Kadidja said...

Kadidja Nanakasse

I don't think it's fair that the police are releasing so much information on SUSPECTS. This could negatively effect a persons life especially in the end if they are found out to be innocent and what ever happen to people being innocent until proven guilty?

Dana Dever said...

I definitely think that the media should have to wait until the suspect is confirmed as the only suspect or until they are actually convicted. At the very most they should be able to release a description of the suspect, but no photographs or names because these can be incredibly damaging to a person for the rest of their lives and may cost them things such as future job opportunities, friends or even the trust of their own families.

Coeli Danella said...

While it's understandable that journalists want to be on top of the news and have "breaking news" all of the time, they definitely should wait until they have all of the appropriate information to say if he's guilty or not. That's somebody's family member or friend and it's traumatic enough to be suspected of any crime, it's probably worse to have the media calling you monstrous and then later have them publish and faux apology. The only reason why the Inquirer and The Daily News published apologies was to cover themselves from legal action.

Lady Blah Blah said...

Giulia Valtieri

Just like the justice system claims everyone is innocent until proven guilty, there is a certain privacy level that even suspects deserve, and this man was not even a confirmed suspect. the police should have guarded this story better but if the journalists covering this caught a shot, i think they should report the actual story with the angle that his privacy was not protected.

Haley Kmetz said...

The job of the journalist is to tell the truth. It would be wrong to convict the suspect prior to a trial, but I believe that all information - including information on alleged suspects - should be released so that the public can stay informed. Matters are complicated when the suspect's right to privacy is taken into account, but I still think that an informed public outweighs the benefits of the suspect's rights. Some court cases, take the OJ Simpson case for example, do not end in the persecution of the right people. If a case is developing and ongoing, the public has the right to be informed and the journalist has the duty to inform the public on what is currently thought by police.

Alexandra Bristow said...

I think that in times of today it totally SUCKS that the media can come to conclusions such as this and publish photos such as the "more montrous than cookie monster" fellow on the front . But in the end it is just how it is...the media is and will always be looking for the next best story. The jounrnalists did list this subject as guilty and therfore did not draw forth any conclusions, but the next story which claimed the previous story false, gave them even more to write about.

Tracy L. Kirkendall said...

No way the media should sit on this untila conviction. A: the public has a right to know and B: obviously this guy has some sort of criminal record or shady past....why do you think the cops arrested him. This is like TV. Cops do their job, regardless of what people say. Although, I will say this: the cops made a big mistake in parading the guy around in his cookie monster hoodie...DUMB!

Alexis Wright-Whitley said...

I totally put this all on the police. I don't think that they should've released all of this guy's information if he was only a suspect. It's sad to say, but of course the media would just follow behind the police and publish the same information. This is where the media is at fault. They should have waited for the suspect to actually be convicted by the court, and then release his info.

Megan Carter said...

I feel like most reports on alleged criminals go one-sided. Journalists tend to take a guilty stance on the suspect prematurely, ruining reputations and resulting in dilapidated journalistic integrity. Rather than providing a forum for public criticism, the media is creating a biased opinion when it should be investigating elements that could prove a party guilty or innocent. Verification should be considered when putting citizens' names out there that could potentially affect their current and future employment. Plus, when so much negative coverage is exposed on a suspect, if and when the person is brought to a trial, an unbiased jury is difficult to find.

How does shedding a guilty light on a suspect, one that could very well be innocent, follow the principles of journalism? I don't believe it does.

Sinead C said...

It was an on-going investigation and that should have been made clear, first to the media and then by the media. What happened to the principle of innocent until proven guilty? The police should not have spoken prematurely on the case. Journalists must check facts, however. The media needs to make sure that their coverage is well-informed and fair. This could have ruined an innocent man's life. It has happened before. He did not have to be paraded in front of the media and treated so unfairly. It was a blunder by both police and media.

Erin Magarity said...

The police paraded him around in front of the media because they knew he was guilty before even having a trial. I agree with the police officers putting him in plain sight of the public media, even if he hasn't been convicted yet.

Kelly Offner said...

I, too, put this on the police.
We talked about this in one of my other classes-

How could all of the news networks have known where and when the police were making an arrest in the case? Cameras and reporters showed up at Wood's house at the time of the arrest because the police told them about it beforehand.

The dangerous belief within society that when a person is dead someone should be held responsible has made it's impression on the media.

Police are capable of manipulating the journalist/news/story- giving only the information that makes it appear a definitive break in the case has been made. The media is forced to become dependent on the police information because readers crave the breaking story. News is only news so long as it's new and timely.

In defense of police, Wood's said after the event that he had no anger against the police, that they were just "doing their job."

Chelsea Koerbler said...

I think that because he was just a suspects and it was an on-going investigation that they should not have let out his name a picture. They should have had more evidence than a fingerprint on a car, car's have a lot of people's fingerprints on them.

Felix Flores said...

I think its wrong for the media to frame suspects, but in reporting these kinds of stories there is a very fine line to walk. Unfortunately for the acquitted suspect the reputation of driving a stolen vehicle recklessly will follow him, even though various news outlets printed corrective stories. Also with the rise of citizen journalism, twitter feeds, and facebook there is more of jump-the-gun reporting without verifying facts, and getting the entire story correct. I think that if you cannot get all the aspects of a story, it shouldn't be run at all.

Kate Trowbridge said...

I don't think the media should publish the information until they get all of their facts straight. Yes, it was the police's mistake in the first place for arresting the wrong person, but the media should have waited for conformation from police and others authorities involved in the investigation before publishing information on it. Things like this can negatively effect people for the rest of their lives.

Jonathan said...

As long as it's clear he's only a suspect and hasn't been convicted yet, the media should be able to run the story. That "monstrous" line was an indirect quote from the police, not the paper itself.

If you think about it, a lot of the trials for high-profile crimes tend to be a long time after the actual event. If the media waited until a conviction to reveal the former-suspect-now-convict, how many people would remember the actual crime? Also, if the media does not report an arrest, how many people will think that the perpetrator is still on the loose?

Felix Flores said...

I'm just starting to think about how journalists abide blindly by allegations, and I see these examples in sports all the time. They only get one side (probably for deadline reasons), and forget to do any verifying. There would be releases from "a source" saying such and such athlete used PED's, or sent racy text messages to female employees of the team. I think the media made Roger Clemens guilty before he testified in congress. In the case of the Michael Vick birthday party shooting, a short time after leaving jail, the media portrayed him as guilty initially, before they discovered he had no part in the shooting.

Lauren Hertzler said...

It is the the job of the media to inform the public, therefore I do not think that the media should stop rushing to publish and/ or air stories before all the facts are known.

This particular mistake was solely that of the police. The police claimed wrong information to be true that journalists published. If the media knew this was untrue - it never would have been published or aired in the first place.

NIcole said...

We all are guilty of wanting up-to-the minute information. I believe that when this information could damage the reputation of a potentially innocent person, it is a violation of their rights to parade them in front of the media. So what now? Do we wait until a suspect is actually convicted of a crime before we identify them? I don't think anyone would want to wait till the outcome of a lengthy trial to get that type of information. That is simply not possible. I think, as with most other things, it has to be a judgement call on the part of law enforcement, and in this man's case it was a really poor one.

Ruth K said...

He was arrested and suspected of having stolen the vehicle, so it's news. The reporters should seek the truth, and in this case, they thought the truth was whatever the police were saying... can't blame them on that. I say that they did their job.

Tetiana Bilynsky said...

I think that the police should have waited to give the media so much information because he was only a suspect. I also think that the media should not have revealed so much information because they were not positive if the he was guilty or not.