Thursday, September 13, 2007

Just Who Are We Trying to Inform Anyway?

I recently read an article entitled “Jurors excused, mistrial denied in Peeler case” published by The Connecticut Post that was commenting on an earlier publication by The Post. The article released the names, hometowns and personal information about 12 jurors and six alternates in the death penalty hearing for Russell Peeler Jr. on the front page of its Sunday edition. A Superior Court judge excused two jurors, fearful about their safety, from duty after the publication was released.

State’s Attorney Jonathan Benedict said:

This was an exercise of colossal misjudgment by the Connecticut Post.

One of the jurors excused told the judge she was shocked to see her name in Sunday’s newspaper stating, “I had no idea the Connecticut Post would do that, I am now concerned about my safety.” Another juror was excused because she was concerned about the safety of her children.

This incident is incredibly shocking to me especially after hearing that the jurors were “...told not to tell people [they] were on the jury.”

While I’m sure the case was an extremely high profile one and the identities of the jury members speculated about during the time leading up to the trial I see no reason for having not only their names but also their hometowns and personal information published in a newspaper. After learning that the jurors themselves were told to keep their identity a secret it makes me wonder how the media even learned of their names. Then there is the fact that background work had to be done on each of the eighteen members to even have something to write about. Maybe it’s just me but I basically see a big “Here they are, come and get them” headline and it makes me wonder just what news should actually be news. I’m sure that the public is much more interested in what’s going on with the actually case; at least I know I would be. What difference does it make to me as a reader that I now know who the jurors are, where to find their parents, and little bits of personal information about them? Does it mean that if I don’t like the outcome I’m suppose to pay them a person visit, since after reading I’d be able to?

It leaves me wondering what we as readers really want in the news and questioning where our ethics have gone. Should someone really have the right to make others fear for their safety and the safety of their families just to try and entertain readers?

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