Suspicion and guilt in the media

without comments

Lord Goldsmith and Michael Crimp have now warned the media about its behaviour in Suffolk. Now that a suspect has been charged the risks of influencing a future trial have increased substantially. But as Mark Lawson writes today in the Guardian, the media has already had a detrimental influence, and given we all now have a ‘data footprint’ (i.e. lots of private information readily available online) it is highly unlikely news broadcasters and newspapers will be able to restrain themselves from publishing more information about the suspect and his personal life. But since much of the information is in the public domain already what should the rules on publication be? How should the media deal with suspects in criminal trials (and with their families, friends, colleagues)?
Writing over eighty years ago Walter Lippmann noted how attitudes towards what was private and what wasn’t had changed substantially in his lifetime. ‘The history’ he wrote, ‘of the notion of privacy would be an entertaining tale’ (Public Opinion). We could use just such a tale again now.

Written by Martin Moore

December 22nd, 2006 at 11:45 am

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