It's wrong to compound victims' suffering for clicks
On misjudgments and recklessness in media
In a creepy and irresponsible attempt to get clicks on its website, Fox News posted an article link on social media with the headline "Missing Utah college student [name redacted], 19, found naked and alive in man's basement, reports say". Except, they didn't redact the victim's name.
■ Times are notoriously tough in the news business right now. Giants like Gannett use words like "transformation" to address the situation as they fight multi-million-dollar losses. The desire to "pivot to digital" is all around.
■ Digital advertising depends upon clickthrough. And salacious headlines have virtually always played a part in drumming up attention -- the "yellow journalism" of the 1800s wasn't even the first era of sensationalism. For-profit enterprises in the business of selling news (and adjacent things that look like news) have never been universally high-minded. Even the Founders weren't above hot-button debates.
■ But that doesn't mean decency and civic responsibility should go out the window. It is precisely because of digital media that even greater care should be taken to attend to the full consequences of coverage: Anything published today goes farther, faster, than just about any news in history.
■ Putting a victim's name, the age "19", and the word "naked" all in the headline guarantees that the victim's name will be tied to unflattering search results, probably forever. And all over something she didn't do: She was the victim, after all.
■ It's not only shameful but also reckless to compound a victim's suffering like that merely to get clicks. It is wrong to celebrate and celebritize perpetrators -- and it's also wrong to make a victim's worst experience the one that defines them digitally.