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YOUR VIEW: Naming Alleged Victim Draws Criticism

Posted: Oct 9, 2013 8:03 PM by Taylor Beck & Ellie Coatar, KOMU 8 Producers
Updated: Oct 11, 2013 8:46 PM

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COLUMBIA - In September, KOMU 8 News aired a story continuing our coverage of the sexual harassment and assault allegations against Osage County Sheriff Michael Dixon.

In the original report as well as follow-ups, KOMU 8 News made the decision to name the victim on air and online, which frustrated some viewers.

Kelly Suzann Harding expressed her concern on our Facebook page.

"Don't you think it would have been prudent for you all to avoid listing any accusers' names in your article since the police report only identifies the victim by initials? Way to out the alleged victim, KOMU," Harding wrote.

KOMU 8 News content manager Matt Johnson said the victim's name was public knowledge throughout the community.

"A lot of the people we spoke to down in Belle knew the victim, knew about the allegations and so because of that we felt there was no harm to be done by using her name," Johnson said.

KOMU 8 News spoke with the alleged victim back in July when reporters used her name in the stories.

"We also spoke with her on the phone, and she was aware that we were doing several stories on this, and she was also okay with us using her name," Johnson said.

KOMU 8 News did not reveal to the audience that anyone in the newsroom had spoken with the alleged victim at all, which prompted some other viewers to comment on our Facebook page, including Sandra Veltrop.

"You screwed up KOMU, and you've been screwing up more and more lately. And as a result of this, you are going to lose viewers, just like me. And if I was the victim, I would be furious with you. So with that being said, goodbye and good luck," Veltrop wrote.

KOMU 8 News consulted MU professor Sandy Davidson who specializes in this type of law.

"It becomes an ethical question of whether to use a sexual assault or rape victim's name. But, I think it can be empowering if the person as consented and that person's name is used," Davidson said.

Davidson says KOMU 8 News' mistake was a lack of transparency.

"The mistake, I believe was that the station did not tell viewers that indeed she has consented. And, of course, that caused criticism," Davidson said.

So what do you think? Should we have named the alleged victim? Should we have been more transparent and told our viewers we spoke with the victim beforehand? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus. Then watch Friday nights at 6 as we report "Your View" of the news.

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