Information vs. Privacy, a journalist's dilemma

February 9, 2017 - 8:14pm Updated: February 9, 2017 - 9:22pm

People want information. They want it all and they want it now.

As journalists, we get it. Providing our audience with accurate, timely information is the foundation of what we at rdnewsNOW do every day.

Sometimes, though, you have to take a moment to think about what’s right.

This week, RCMP announced charges in Red Deer’s first homicide of 2017. They did not release the name of the victim.

As much as we take pride in bringing you in-depth, accurate information, and despite the fact we had already confirmed the victim’s identity, we did not include her name in our story.

Why, you ask?

“At the request of the victim’s family, RCMP are not releasing her name.” – RCMP media release, Feb. 7

Who are we to argue? What right do we even have to do so?

The victim’s family specifically asked that her name not be released, so that is what we did.

There’s a chance this could change at some point. Family members may tell us it’s ok to share her name. So far, this hasn’t happened. If it does, we will proceed accordingly.

If this case someday proceeds to trial, her name will very likely be included in our coverage. But that’s a matter for another day, a day when the family has had time to be together in their time of sorrow and begin the process of moving on. But for now, the family has made this request we’ve chosen to honour.

We’re aware that a Go Fund Me account started by her family is gaining widespread support, and we are so glad to hear that. I’ve donated to it personally and encourage others who come across the campaign to do the same.

But again, to this point the family has asked that her name not be shared in the media. Until we are directly told otherwise we shall continue to honour this.

Her name made the rounds on social media, as often happens. It is what it is.  That's not something we have any control over.  

Normally, I take no issue with sharing the name of a murder/homicide victim. In fact, I feel that more time and effort should be spent on learning about the victim and honouring a life that was lost than should be spent on glorifying the suspect/perpetrator.

But in this case, the family asked for privacy.

Did we miss out on a “scoop” for the sake of decency? Yes, probably.

If it helps bring even a brief moment of peace for a grieving family, we’re good with it.

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