Under fire

St. Louis newspaper criticized for naming possible sexual-assault victim

A night of drinking turned into a nightmare for a Jefferson City lobbyist -- due in part to the Post-Dispatch's A-1 report.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has come under fire from journalists for breaching a common ethical protocol by naming the possible victim of a sexual assault in a news story. The newspaper ran a story on the downfall of local politician John Diehl, which resulted in exposing the name of an intern who filed sexual assault charges against him and photographs of her alleged “party” lifestyle, among other details. The Riverfront Times pointed out that the St. Louis-Post Dispatch “ran her photo on its front page … listed all the alcohol she consumed the night before — with details including the size of various bar tabs and specific drinks she’d paid for.” It also named the man she’d previously been in a sexual relationship with, even though he was not suspected of any wrongdoing and wasn’t even present for the night’s festivities, and it published her name and her job.” In journalism, it’s common practice to not disclose the names of sexual assault victims. By focusing the sexual-assault story on the victim and providing inappropriate details of her life, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch implicitly shows that, even in journalism, victim-shaming is not yet a thing of the past. In response to the criticism, the paper’s national editor issued a statement explaining the decision. “We made the decision to run the story based on its news value after careful consideration and healthy discussions involving a veteran reporter and senior editors.”

Read the full story at Flavorwire and the Riverfront Times.

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