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Cable news station apologizes for publicizing victim's name

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  1. Content Restrictions

    NMU         MASSACHUSETTS         Broadcasting         Aug 20, 2001    

Cable news station apologizes for publicizing victim’s name

  • Judge declines to cite a journalist or station for contempt for violating a court-issued media policy.

A television reporter and the station manager appeared before an Essex County judge on Aug. 20 after a news report included audio of the prosecutor reciting the name of a sexual abuse victim. Judge Isaac Borenstein did not sanction the reporter or New England Cable News, but Vice President of News and Station Manager Charles Kravetz apologized to the court for publically revealing the individual’s identity.

“I do share the belief that we have the responsibility to shield the identity of child victims,” Kravetz said. “And we fell down.”

On Aug. 14, NECN reporter Lorne Matalon covered the sentencing hearing of a 29-year-old church worker who pleaded guilty to 75 counts of rape and molestation in the state’s most notorious sexual abuse case. During the evening broadcast of the story, the voice of a prosecutor was audible as he recited the name of one of the victims, some of whom delivered emotional statements before the judge sentenced Christopher Reardon to 40 to 50 years in prison.

Prior to the hearing, the judge issued a five-page “Media Protocol” that directed photographers to refrain from shooting pictures of the victims or their relatives. The judge also instructed the broadcast media to use a voice-altering device when airing a victim’s statement.

Contrary to reports, NECN was not cited for contempt of court, Kravetz said. The hearing was held to determine if a contempt hearing was necessary, the station manager said.

“This is a very reasonable judge who, I think, is predisposed to allow cameras in court,” Kravetz said shortly after appearing in Salem Superior Court. “I’m hoping this doesn’t chill cameras in court in a state that has been very open.”

Kravetz said the judge suggested the cable network arrange to compensate the family. Kravetz said it was unlikely that NECN would create a trust fund as proposed, but he said the station would most likely explore holding a symposium with victims’ rights advocates and journalists to address the issue of media coverage of sex abuse trials.

Matalon, who joined NECN about two years ago after a decade at the Canadian Broadcasting Company, could receive a reprimand or face dismissal, according to Kravetz.

SM

Clarification: The prosecutor who mentioned the victim’s name in court, which was aired by NECN, only said a first name.


© 2001 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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