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2004-08-04 @ 13:13:30 The Privacy of Victims
I read a News & Observer article yesterday during breakfast about how a police officer (who was subsequently fired) groped two women after pulling them over. Something in the article struck a nerve though: they actually published the street names where the women lived! What?

Deeply troubled by this I sent off this email to the editor and cc'ed the author:
Dear Editor,

Is it North Carolina law that you must publish the addresses of victims (such as in today's cover story “Woman accuses ex-cop”) or is it simply because you lack any respect for the privacy of others?

I can understand warning neighbors of a suspected criminal in their neighborhood, but victims too? Is that not going too far? After all, they are the victims.

Just because this information may be in the public record does not mean you should publish it. Is the city of residence not enough for your readers?

Dominique Bischof
I addressed the email to the editor because I knew this was newspaper policy and not really the fault of the reporter. Still I felt he should get a copy too. About two hours later I got this reply from him:
Ms. Bischof,

I appreciate your note and your concern for privacy rights of crime victims. Our policy is to publish the street address of most crime victims in order to clearly identify them apart from someone with a similar name.

I'd like to point out that we did not print the victims' house numbers in the story you mentioned.

Again, thank you for your note.

Oren Dorell.
Ms. Bischof, hmm, we'll let that one slide. So yeah, I had noticed that they omitted the house number from the address but at that point you've pretty much given it away to everyone in the neighbourhood. As for the case of mistaken identity I agree than it can be annoying but they also published the ages of the victims so how likely is it that two people in the city with the same name also have the same age? Not very. At least their intentions were fair, if only a bit misguided.

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