To Censor Or Not To Censor

Would you publish the home address of a mass-shooter? Print the name of a minor? Journalists are constantly faced with these difficult decisions regarding censorship with a breaking story.

In school, we are taught to report fairly, accurately and be mindful of not publishing information that might cause harm to the person or group of people in the story.

I have recently read a troubling number of publications that have overlooked the importance of censorship. Of course, everyone’s code of ethics is different, but there are certainly rules that should be followed when a person’s safety is at hand.

William Jacobson of Legal Insurrection expressed his concerns about censorship in the media. He said that he would never want his blog to publish the story that would destroy someone or make them more susceptible to harm. “We don’t start the witch hunt,” said Jacobson.

In 2013, Justine Sacco, former director of corporate communications at InterActive Corp, tweeted, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” People on social media found no humor in this tweet which led to the trending hashtag: #HasJustineLandedYet“.

Jacobson acknowledged that he would address a situation similar to this one on his blog once the story itself became news.

On October 9th, 2015, an article was published in The Ithacan regarding a racially charged party theme at AEPi. The publication broke the story almost immediately but missed one big factor. They attached a screen shot of the party’s invitation leaving both the name of the student who was inviting others and the address of the house in the picture. Social media did not take kindly to this information. Students and individuals around the Ithaca area threatened to visit the house and wrote strongly worded posts aimed directly at the student on the Official Ithaca College Class Facebook pages. All of those posts have now been deleted from the pages. In addition, The Ithacan reuploaded the screen shot of the invitation with the address and name of the student blurred out.


In no way am I supporting what AEPi or the student did, but am rather questioning if it is the media’s job to create the “witch hunt”.  The answer to this question is in the hands of the editors.


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