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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

PA reporter steps up, "falls on the sword" for rape story

On Tuesday, Regional News Network posted an opinion piece in which we were critical of a respected news reporter in northwest Pennsylvania. The story involved the alleged forcible rape of a woman. Our problem was the lack of the word "alleged" and the extreme detail described in the alleged attack. The suspect was arrested and jailed on bail. Comments poured in, some were posted, many others based on language, were not. Today, that reporter, whom we consider a typically classy professional, stepped up and posted a comment on the original story:
"I agree with you, too, and I've changed it. If I knew who the victim was, I would apologize to her. News people are human and make mistakes. I've never done that with another rape and don't know why I did it yesterday. I'm glad so many people called me out on that ... it means you're paying attention and care about what I report on."
RNN spoke with this reporter Wednesday afternoon. She admitted that the story was 'out of character' for her. The purpose of this story isn't to cause public shame, but rather to remind people in the media of the great power they possess. People do read our stories. People are impacted by what we write. People care about responsible reporting.
This reporter has well beyond a decade worth of solid, credible reporting. In this instance, there was a momentary error in judgment. This site has experienced the same thing...and we have been called on it.
It matters what we write. I'm glad this reporter reached out.
For me, I've done this news thing for 35 years. I never take anything for granted and I consider each day an opportunity to learn and do a better job.
The end result for both her and I is that we'll work to become even better conveyers of the news.