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Posts Tagged ‘first amendment’

Stumbled upon this quandary recently. Figured I’d open it up for some smart discussion. (NOTE: It involves possible sexual assault of a minor, so be forewarned…and be sensitive).

Here’s the situation:

A woman called me and said her significant other (who is accused of assaulting her teenage daughter…charges I wrote about) is innocent.  She said her daughter (who has mental disabilities, the mother claims) made the story up. The woman wanted to get this story across to exonerate someone she believes is innocent. To do so, I would of course need to ID her as the mother of the alleged victim in the story, so as to give weight to the claims. This also inevitably identifies the alleged victim, since it’s pretty easy to connect mother to teenage daughter. And it is the standard practice at most news organizations to not identify victims/alleged victims of sexual abuse, rape and the like. There is sound reasoning behind this: being identified publicly as a sexual assault victim can be humiliating and stigmatizing.

But is it different if a victim wants to identify him/herself? I would say so. If someone wants to talk about their experience in a public forum, who’s to keep a reporter from printing it? However, is it the same when a mother wants to essentially identify her teenage daughter, either as someone with a disability, a sexual assault victim, or both? Or does the rule of thumb (“don’t identify sexual assault victims/alleged victims”) hold true?

Uneasy subject for many, but I would love to hear your (respectful) thoughts.

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Let me establish from the onset of this post that I understand 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds still have worlds to learn and should be given some leeway as they mature. Heck, that even applies to 22-year-olds like myself (I hope).

But Urban Meyer is way out of line for confronting Orlando Sentinel reporter Jeremy Fowler for his use of a quote that came from wide receiver Deonte Thompson (see here for video of the Meyer/Fowler confrontation at practice). Thompson was discussing how the change at QB could benefit of him, and the young man (unintentionally?) criticized Tim Tebow somewhat (here’s the quote that started this whole mess).

Meyer’s strong reaction included a rant about how Fowler unfairly took advantage of a young man (Thompson) and used his quote out of context. Meyer proceeded to tell the reporter that if it was his own son in the article, the two would be coming to blows.

Here’s where I differ significantly from Meyer: Thompson is a young man, but he is also receiving public money (in the form of an athletic scholarship) to go to a public institution for free (I am assuming this is the case…I have not checked Thompson’s specific scholarship status). Because of this fact, Thompson is not a typical “young man” who should be coddled and protected. He is a public figure, and with that status comes the responsibility of dealing with the press…and the consequences of your quotes. Even if you’re 18, 19, or 20.

Meyer too needs to understand that he’s a public figure, and his team is largely a public entity because it represents a public university. So to lash out at the press–and threaten to cut off their access–is an embarrassment. Mr. Fowler took an accurate quote, used it in a story, and attempted to give it some context (again, see the blog post that started the whole thing, which is linked above). Urban, if you think your team and you personally deserve public money in the form of scholarships, contracts and endorsements, then please respect the First Amendment and treat the press with some respect.

Now I’m going to return to being an irresponsible 22-year-old. Too bad a college football coach won’t coddle me.

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