Naming the arrested players

Rather than allowing for rumor to abound on campus, the Daily decided to publish the names.

Tim Franzen

The alleged rape of an 18-year-old woman has, for obvious reasons, captivated and appalled readers.

Of the letters and comments I’ve read, none took the topic of rape lightly. Some said the Daily’s coverage neglected the victim. Others said the publication of the football players’ names was out of line.

The Daily decided to publish the names of those arrested, but not the name of the victim. This was the correct thing to do for a few reasons.

First, according to managing editor Nina Petersen-Perlman, the football players are prominent people on campus and three people arrested for rape on campus is a newsworthy event.

Like it or not, she is right. Many athletes achieve notoriety on campus. It is more newsworthy when a person of prominence is accused of a crime than an average student.

Granted, football players are not celebrities or high-ranking public officials. However, in the context of a campus newspaper, athletes do have a higher level of name recognition than most of us.

KARE 11 decided not to name those arrested. One of the reasons cited was the fact that the players were not that well-known. However, KARE 11 reaches a different audience than the University’s student newspaper. Gopher football players are more prominent to the Daily’s readership.

Petersen-Perlman also said the fact that most of the other news sources were releasing the names of the arrested individuals influenced the Daily’s decision to do so.

While the behavior of other media doesn’t mean something is ethically correct, it does play into the overall context of the situation. If other news outlets are going to release the names, the Daily certainly has more reason to do so.

The names were going to be released to the public in one form or another. Rather than allowing for rumor to abound on campus, the Daily decided to publish the names. The readers would be better served by this information. The harm to the football players’ reputations would be only minimal, since readers were likely to find out about it anyway.

Finally, the University released the names and coach Tim Brewster suspended the players. Suspending three players would be news. The reason for the suspension, if available, would need to accompany that story. Withholding that information would do a disservice to the readers.

Taken as a whole, the decision to publish the names of the Gopher football players accused of this crime was sound. Even KARE 11 quoted media ethicist Bob Steele giving numerous reasons for the publication of the players’ names. Both the decision to publish the names and not to publish the names could be correct, Steele said to KARE 11.

No one should presume these players guilty of anything until proven in a court of law. No one should blame the victim for coming forward to police. These things we should not disagree on.

However, the decision by the Daily is still open to debate. I think they made the right decision, but you might disagree. Comment online or send a letter to the editor.

Tim Franzen is the Daily’s readers’ representative. He welcomes comments at [email protected]