UPDATED: Media disconnect in the Tracy case

SEE UPDATE BELOW. Obviously we want the media to publicize Amber Alerts and report on murders. But there seems to be a disconnect between the media’s tendency to tout its own policies on not reporting certain details of crimes and its tendency to run for days with details of other crimes. What has happened in Tracy is completely devastating. When a story starts its life as an Amber Alert, but ends up being a story about a grisly murder, shouldn’t the media not want to have the victim’s face and name and the unspeakable details about what happened to her plastered all over the front page and sold as the top story?

Media generally don’t report the names of underage victims of certain crimes. The most often quoted policy behind not releasing the names of underage victims of sexual crimes is that it is due to the “stigma attached to that type of crime.” Obviously they should refrain principally because it would be improper and unnecessary, not only because their viewers/readers are too judgey. I don’t know if there is anything worse than the murder of a child. Shouldn’t the news coverage of such a story fall under some sort of similar policy? Once the story has reached its tragic conclusion, wouldn’t the public interest be appropriately served by a media that does its duty and then retreats so the family can heal in peace?

UPDATED 4/13 3:00 PM: Warning: If you’re having a good day so far and you want to continue having a good day, move along. But since I saw the headlines already, my day’s already ruined. Everything I said above is out the window and the gloves are off. I do not understand how any publication can claim to not report the names of underage victims of sexual crimes when they clearly have not a shred of decency on this subject. I don’t understand how they can be comfortable backing themselves into this corner. This poor family.

Author: CoolDMZ

"X-ray vision to see in between / Where's my kimono and my time machine?"

14 thoughts on “UPDATED: Media disconnect in the Tracy case”

  1. Inquiring minds want to know… Don’t like it? Stop buying People, visiting TMZ.com, or watching Access Hollywood.

    Once the NEED to know (e.g.; for the purpose of an Amber Alert) is over, it’s all about the DESIRE to know- which sells papers/drives hits to web sites, which leads to increased sales/advertising revenue, off the pain of the victim(s). “We are telling the public the status of the investigation” is not a real response, since they could do that in one line, leaving out the unneeded strangulation/mutilation/bodily fluid test result details.

    Fight the morbid DESIRE to know to cancelling your People subscription, letting the Bee know that you will stop reading (buying) if they continue running stories with no NEWS content (“Police Continue Child Death Investigation”- Really? You mean they aren’t giving up and going home once they found the body? Well- then how many times was she stabbed?) but only sallacious details about the death.


  2. I agree with TS to some degree although as I watched about 30 seconds of her mom being interviewed by Matt Lauer this morning I had to wonder wtf she was doing. I mean really, not only is there a desire by the public but the family (I’m not saying just this family, it happens all the time) is buying into it by giving interviews. It just seems wrong.


  3. I must admit that I wish someone would make Nancy Grace’s mutilated and strewn-across-5-states corpse into a news story. I WOULD watch that if it turned out that Vince from Sham Wow did it because she bit his Shammey. I’m all against gratuitous violence news stories, but the thought of Vince killing Nancy Grace (or even vice versa) in some kind of biting, slapping, slug out has some oddly satisfying aspects to it.


  4. I can’t speak for other media outlets, only the one people already know I work for, and even then, these are my personal thoughts and not necessarily reflective of my employer.

    When Sandra Cantu went missing, we did our civic duty of pushing information out to the public. Yes, this meant showing her face and using her name, as well as other descriptive information. An Amber Alert was not issued by authorities, and yet we were criticized for it.

    Where I work, we launched a website dedicated to 24/7 coverage of the Sandra Cantu situation. We did so as a public service, free of any advertisement. Our competition soon followed in-toe, with pages similar to ours with the exception of advertisements. As the days developed and as the search for Sandra Cantu intensified, the public became involved in thoughts and emotionally attached to the story, as is normal in human nature.

    Our coverage brought together companies like Buttonworks, Staples and SacramentoGrapevine.com, all of which donated time, services and/or money to the search for Sandra Cantu. Our corporate partner, Staples, printed 4,000 fliers free of charge. SacramentoGrapevine.com placed “Have you seen me” type advertisements on their webpages. Buttonworks.com printed over 250 shirt badges with Sandra’s information and phone numbers for free and asked us to pass them along to the family (which we did). Again, people became emotionally involved, and it brought together a community.

    Now, of course, we know the outcome. To suddenly stop showing Sandra’s face and stop referring to her by her name would draw more criticism. Our viewers and readers are not stupid. To treat them as such would be a slap in the face.

    Again, I can’t speak for any other media outlet, but we have made a commitment to keeping the public informed about the situation. We do so, not because we’re expecting high ratings or profit (remember, we’re not making any money off the Sandra Cantu portion of our website), but for everyone who e-mails or responds to us on Twitter, asking for more information on Sandra Cantu. They want more information, not because they’re vultures who thrive off crisis, but because they need closure and peace within their own hearts. None of us knew Sandra before this story. I guess human nature is weird…that we all could get so emotionally involved toward a person we really didn’t know much about.

    Anyway, you’ll always find people that have a problem with the way things are done. News will never be 100% perfect, especially when news is a business. Criticism is always encourage and accepted. It helps shape the job we do. I’m not going to try and bullshit anyone into thinking that the way we do news isn’t for ratings. Trust me, we want ratings, it pays our bills. But the way we, as individual reporters, producers and directors, do news goes far beyond that — we do it to inform, we do it to warn, we do it to provoke thought, we do it as a call of action, and we do it to inspire.

    News will always be a fraction of our lives. How it’s delivered, and how we interpret it, will forever be changing. How the news is done today won’t be how it’s done in five years. How it’s done in five years won’t be how it’s done in fifty years. But one thing is constant: It will never be perfect, and it will always be privy to criticism.

    So, if you insist on cancelling your newspaper subscription, donate the money to a good cause. If you turn the TV off, spend the hour or two you’d spend in front of the boob tube contributing to your community. Instead of writing a letter to the editor, or a comment on a snark site, write to your elected representatives and demand they work for you. If you disagree with the way the news is presented, then present the news in your own voice. It’s the 21st Century; anyone can start a blog.


  5. While I believe most of us feel this way, they is a large minority of people who view it as entertainment for their depraved minds. And know matter what there will always be people like Nifong Nancy over on CNN who will milk a story for all its worth and run it into the ground before they stop.


  6. Radio Matthew: I had never thought of starting a blog to put my own spin on the news. I’m going to look into that this afternoon.


  7. CoolDMZ: Now I know you’re smart enough to realize I was responding to a much larger group of people than just yourself and the commenters on here. At least…I hope you’re smart enough to realize that.


  8. “If you turn the TV off, spend the hour or two you’d spend in front of the boob tube contributing to your community. Instead of writing a letter to the editor, or a comment on a snark site, write to your elected representatives and demand they work for you.”

    Hahaha- yeah. I did that, but my elected representatives must have been busy watching all the child rape stories on TMZ, KCRA, KQCA, and AllUnder6GettingRaped.com. RadioM’s explanation was good until the story got too juicy to pass up.

    So RadioM… in the interest of “keeping the public informed about the situation” and giving me “closure and peace within [my] own heart[],” you want to share the details now? I really can’t get “closure” until I know how many times she was [insert vile act here, knowledge of which won’t make any difference in our lives whatsoever, no matter what the act could possibly be, or how many times it was done to her, or with what impliment, to what part of her body]ed.

    “We are telling the public the status of the investigation” is not a real response, and while the general public speaks with its dollar, you will continue to be subject to the horrible details, that no one ever needs to know. Sometimes the desires of the many must be curtailed by a few who know better. *I* know better. And in your heart, you do too. And being “in the biz,” you owe us a better explanation, and/or an appology.


  9. Hear, hear I guess? The bottom line for me is that there are some things we don’t need to know. Having the charges made public (if that is what happens) might be enough sometimes. And the central question of this post was: How does the media pick which names of underage sexual assault victims it discloses and which it doesn’t?

    While we’re at it, why do news stories always make us wait on the *reason* a child is murdered? “Police still aren’t saying why she was murdered.” WHAT THE FUCK REASON WOULD THERE BE.

    Also I’m not sure you should be posting comments on blogs responding to criticism of your employer. You could get yourself into trouble.


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