Andrea has an interesting post about a sensational and tragic news story that was splashed across the front page of both local rags today. The piece involves a father facing criminal charges for allowing his 3-year-old daughter to drink water containing the street drug GHB.
Andrea posits that the Vancouver Sun staff have intentionally included identifying details that would enable anyone to identify this man using Google:
he paper describes his house colour, size, lot, items in the front yard, and the general neighbourhood. The Sun article provides details about the man’s car, including windshield stickers, and an item in the backseat. Moreover, the report notes that the man has a website resume — then proceeds to describe details of his work history, career timeline, hobbies, and other experiences.
With details from the newspaper story, I was able to use Google to pull up an extremely relevant web resume within five to 10 seconds. I won’t identify the man or his website address, because it would be unethical to do so.
Now, I didn’t have quite as easy a time locating him as Andrea did, but I got it done. She makes a strong case for the Sun’s intentions. After all, those details about the man are hardly crucial to the narrative. It would be satisfactory, to have written “the Vancouver man had been employed as an audio technician in the film industry for the past decade”. Pointing out that his resume is online doesn’t help, either.
How is the Vancouver Sun serving the public interest by revealing these details? If there is no prevailing public interest (which clearly there isn’t), shouldn’t a journalist respect the police’s decision not to reveal the identity of a suspect?