Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Names and faces. The Globe today withholds the name and photo of that nine-year-old kidnap victim from California now that police are reporting she was sexually assaulted, inserting this into an Associated Press story: "The Globe's policy is not to identify victims of sexual assault without their permission."

The print edition of the Herald runs both her name and photo, although -- as I write this -- neither has been posted on the paper's website.

As with the Herald, the Washington Post's website runs the AP story with the girl's name. The photo, though, is of a police cruiser in front of the suspect's house.

The New York Times ran the AP story with the girl's name, but with the sexual-assault charge edited out. The print edition -- but not the Web version -- includes a photo of her.

The girl's hometown paper, the San Jose Mercury News, withholds both her name and the sexual-assault allegation, although it does get her last name out there by identifying her mother. (I am relying on stories that the Mercury posted on its website yesterday, and which are still up this morning. Perhaps today's print edition is different.)

So what's the right answer? This is a difficult call, given that everyone knew her name as recently as yesterday. I'm withholding the name here -- even though you can find it out just by following some of the links I've posted -- because if I had to choose, it would be on the side of nondisclosure.

The victim and her family are not public people, and, even though her name and face had briefly been everywhere, they will quickly be forgotten -- as they should be, and as I'm sure they want to be.

A terrible thing happened to a nine-year-old girl. Now that she's home, the best thing to do is to restore her privacy as quickly as possible.

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