Wednesday, January 25, 2006


At Ye Olde News-Leader, reporter Matt Wagner saves the day and ends an especially twisted way of getting out the news.

At 1:43 p.m. Wednesday, Springfield Police Department spokesman Matt Brown released "all victim information per Missouri Sunshine law relating to the shooting incident on Jan. 15th." That would be the Hotel 7 spree that left nine people wounded.

Brown's news release then listed the names; here's the compilation:
(417) 236-2049

634 S NEW AV
(417) 868-8613

(417) 880-1138

1500 W GRAND #A3
(417) 619-8094

(417) 865-3114

(417) 849-2306

2153 W WALL ST #B
(417) 863-2433

(314) 922-1201

12151 N INTERSTATE HWY 35 #825
Not quite an hour later -- at 2:34 p.m. -- Matt Brown issued another release, letting media types know that "Tutwiler is from Austin TX, not Spfld." Thank God; we were starting to wonder when I-35 made a swoop through here.

At 5:23 p.m., we again heard from Brown: "It was brought to my attention that I missed a victim not listed in my list, but reported on the probable cause statement." That person was:
(417) 864-9858
Ten minutes later, Matt Wagner of the News-Leader helped his fellow Matt with this e-mail:
I'm guessing everybody already knows this, but the phone number for Springfield shooting victim Jestina Hogan in the e-mail sent out earlier today by the PD is wrong. A girl named Jennifer is actually at that number, and she asked me to send something out to the various media outlets so reporters will stop calling her. Again, 619-8094 is not a good phone number for victim Jestina Hogan. Thanks.
Like sausage, news may be tasty, but all that grinding can made you nauseous.


Anonymous said...

I think you should take those addresses and numbers down, Ron. That's not cool.

Anonymous said...

Have to agree. What is your point of publicizing the addresses and phone numbers of crime victims?

DocLarry said...

The names, addresses and phone numbers are a matter of public record. The next of kin have been notified. What's wrong with publishing this information? Why should it NOT be published?

Anonymous said...

I didn't know that people customarily published the names and addresses (and phone numbers?) of crime victims.

I thought we were a society that protected them, not made them vulnerable. Why don't why just buy the shooters' friends maps to the victims' houses, too?

thom said...

That's what google maps are for.
True, double true.

As a followup thom said...

Just wondering:
Ron, these kids are obviously ensconced in a violent culture. Does it concern you that one or more of the individuals you've outed in this post might try to mess with you for outing them?
Not flaming or anything, just wondering.

Ron Davis said...

Thom: They weren't "outed." They were shot. They were witnesses to a crime. Police officials didn't release their identities until the alleged shooter was in custody.

How are they "obviously ensconced in a violent culture"? Because they were at a party where a gun was fired?

An earlier anon questioned "the point" of releasing and publishing the identities. Someone else claimed society is supposed to protect crime victims, "not make them vulnerable." Using the latter comment as a benchmark, there should be no reporting of any crime unless the victim is dead.

Anonymous said...

Nobody said don't report the crime. I am just questioning the wisdome of divulging addresses and phone numbers.

What positive does it serve?

No one is questioning your right to do it. I am only questioning your judgement.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with the previous poster. Despite your attempt at justifying this, my earlier question remains unanswered: What is your point of publicizing the names, phone numbers and home addresses of these victims? What are you hoping to achieve by doing so?

Yes, I realize this information is on the public record. Yes, I realize the police have furnished it to you and others. Yes, I realize that a determined person could probably track it down for himself. But why do you feel compelled to further facilitate that? What purpose are you trying to serve?

Does it really add anything of great meaning to the story?

This is not a matter of what the First Amendment says you are legally free to publish.

It's just a matter of where your professional ethics rest, and to what degree you choose to apply a sense of right and wrong. The old saying rings true: just because you CAN do something, does that mean you SHOULD do it?

Ron Davis said...

Last Anon: What purpose did it serve to publish the identities? For starters, it launched this conversation. A healthy debate about public information, the public's right to know -- and whether the public desires to know -- is always a positive.

Anonymous said...

Please. If the sparking of an academic discussion or debate about the public's right to know really was your purpose and intent, what would keep us from having that conversation without you casting out the names, addresses and phone numbers of these victims?

It seems completely unnecessary, and almost predatory. As if you had some voyeuristic reason to "out" these people who've already suffered enough.

this time thom said...

Hey Ron, I think you may have misread my intentions. I wasn't trying to make a judgment call about printing their names, their names ARE a matter of public record. You do what you want, you have the balls and the cred.
My question was that of a non-journalist to a journalist. I'm just curious as to if you felt any concern that there was a deeper culture of violence at work here and you were possibly exposing yourself to it by ID'ing them publicly. I'm just curious, because I would be afraid that they might mess with me.
And to respond: "obviously ensconced in a violent culture" -> they were shot and then refused to ID the perp. They were at a party where this event could occur and there was very little cooperation from anyone at the party (from what I've gathered). Somebody comes to my party and starts shooting, I'm gonna talk.
Maybe 'obviously' was too strong, but they were surely more accustom to the idea of somebody shooting up a party than I am.

Disappointed in Chatter Today said...

Come on Ron, own up: you never posted the addresses and numbers just to foster a free-press conversation.

You did it (I guess) to make the police look silly for releasing an incorrect phone number. Fact is, the victim may have furnished faulty info to the police on purpose. As has been stated, many victims were not willing to talk to police.

Basically you want to show off that you are on the Police media mailing list. Big deal. Just because they e-mail you something doesn't mean you have to print it word for word. Use your head.

Ron Davis said...

And the conversation rolls on ...

•Disappointed, you're right. Just because police e-mail something doesn't mean it has to wind up here. Most of the time, it doesn't. Same for news releases from other organizations. But when the news release involves a shooting that has captured a large degree of public interest, it's likely to hit this space. The interest is evident in this conversation.

•Is it a free-press conversation? Sure looks that way, even among those who claim it isn't about freedom of the press.

•Back to Disappointed: Publishing the SPD news releases was not making the police look silly; it showed the to-and-fro that goes on behind a news story. That seems a valid component of the greater story.

•Speaking of that greater story, it was only a few days ago that people were criticizing the wounded for not cooperating with cops. Some of that sentiment lingers in this conversation. Yet now we read that the wounded have "suffered enough" and shouldn't be further injured with the public release of their identities.

•Finally, to the Anon who claimed there's an "almost predatory" motive behind publishing the identities. You wrote: "If the sparking of an academic discussion or debate about the public's right to know really was your purpose and intent, what would keep us from having that conversation without you casting out the names, addresses and phone numbers of these victims?" The answer seems self-evident. Events spark conversations.

But on that note: Do you believe media should publish the names of people arrested, but not charged, with a crime? Should the media publish the identity of a woman who says she was raped and then tells her story in open court?

Anonymous said...

I think the media should wait until charges are filed.

And Missouri's Sunshine Law prevents the releasing of the name of a victim of a sexual crime. So the rape thing just isn't gonna happen.

Along those lines, I think the media should take more care with the victims. That would include not publishing their addresses or phone numbers. Maybe you could help out the bad guys some more and figure out what hours these folks work, and which hours they are home alone, please.

Ron Davis said...

Anon: So I take it you're also against small-town newspapers publishing hospital admissions? After all, a bad guy (or gal) could use the list to prospect for burglaries.

You argue that the media help bad guys by disclosing identities of alleged crime victims. Using your logic, the media shouldn't disclose any identities at all. A bad guy's family, after all, could be targeted by vigilantes when his name (and address) are published. It's happened. So is it all right when disclosure happens to an alleged crook?

You mention the Sunshine Law and how it prevents the naming of a victim of a sex crime. You're half-right; the law says "the victim of an offense as provided in chapter 566, RSMo, may request that his or her identity be kept confidential until a charge relating to such incident is filed." But I asked whether the media should publish the name when the victim tells her story in open court. That would only happen if a charge is filed, so the question remains unanswered.

And why should the media wait until charges are filed to name an arrested suspect?

that's right, thom said...

Don't HIPAA regs prevent a paper from publishing hospital admissions?

Ron Davis said...

Thom: I don't know. If they do, they're routinely ignored by a lot of smaller daily and weekly papers. Some small-town radio stations also air hospital admissions.

Anonymous said...

So you want to name rape victims after charges are filed? What a good guy you are.

As for the unanswered question, no, I would not identify her. What is the good that comes from that?

As for waiting to identify someone until charges are filed...what is the rush? It is hard to unring the bell if you are in such a hurry that you must name them before police are even sure they'll be charged. What is your argument for naming them so fast?

Ron Davis said...

Anon (and what a fine name it is): You're showing your ass when you assume too much. Who said I wanted to name rape victims after charges are filed? I certainly didn't. What I do want is a candid discussion about the policies and procedures involving the use of names in criminal cases.

You ask what good might come from publishing the name of a rape victim. Sorry, but that's a weak argument that could be used to suppress the names of all crime victims? What good comes from naming a person who was kidnapped, robbed and stabbed? Yet when the robbery victim takes the stand, no one hesitates to name her (or him).

Your last paragraph again shows you assume too much. I'm not making an argument for naming suspects before they are charged. I'm pointing out an informal media policy and asking whether it dovetails with the public's right to know.

Personally, I think there's validity to not identifying suspects until they're charged with a crime. But variables abound. Do you name the at-large suspect in the shooting death of a cop, in hopes the public disclosure will lead to capture? Do you identify a suspected child molester who can't be found by police, but who is called a "person of interest" in a sex crime?

offtopic thom said...

I had my blood pressure taken in a common area at my doctor's office. I asked the nurse what my BP was and she wouldn't tell me until we were in the exam room. According to her it was because HIPPA prevented public disclosure of any personal info.
I wonder how said papers and stations are able to do it?
I know from the work I do that HIPAA requires data encryption and even regulates how data can be stored. No Sarbanes Oxley, but still a little overboard if you ask me.

DocLarry said...

HIPPA is relatively recent legislation. Prior to its existence, most hospitals (in my experience) would routinely ask admitted patients if they wanted their name to be released. Even with HIPPA a patient may OK the release of their name to the public, or only to specified people.

Ron is referring to a practice that existed long before HIPPA. My first job was at a pharmacy. One of my duties was to deliver get well cards to the local hospital for the admitted patients whose names were published in the afternoon daily paper. That paper also routinely published names of those who were out of town on vacation; information supplied by the identified party.

The News-Leader (among other papers) publishes the names of those filing for divorce or obtaining marriage licenses. Should they?

Why not publish the name of a rape victim? Anon seems to think this will shame the victim. Perhaps publishing victims' names will remove this irrational stigma, which blames the victim for an act of violence committed against her or him. Geneva Overholser (journ. prof. at MU, formerly editor of the Des Moines Register) has been arguing this for years.

Unless a crime victim has kept their address and phone number a complete secret, any criminal wishing to learn this information for whatever reason will not have to rely on Chatter for the information (or any other news outlet).

Anonymous posters are perhaps being rather two-faced (as Ron noted above), given the "chatter" in the local media over the "negative element" involved in this shooting. Comments referencing the "hip-hoppers" and the "fact" of blacks being more violent than whites don't jibe with concern over releasing information about the victims. Why no outcry over identifying the race of the victims? What purpose does it serve to do so?

Duane Keys said...

Oh man, this post sooo got those two people shot again.

Blames Chatter said...

Way to go, idiot.