WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Naming Names in Cases Involving Juveniles

Jan 9, 2018

Several news outlets have released the name of the 17-year boy charged in the January 1, 2018 shooting death of a LaHarpe woman.  Reporters got the name from court documents, but the Shop Talk panelists believe journalists should withhold reporting the name unless he is charged as an adult.

A hearing will be held this month to determine whether the boy should be tried as an adult. 

Panelist Will Buss said it is common practice to withhold the name of a juvenile accused of a crime unless he/she is charged as an adult.  He said it’s possible the court will decide to try the suspect as a juvenile and the news outlets won’t be able to take back what they’ve already reported.

Buss said journalists also don’t report the name of someone killed in a car crash until the next of kin is notified even if reporters already know the name.

Panelist Jasmine Crighton said she was surprised to see the suspect’s name reported. She said it’s not illegal to report a name that appears in public documents but it is unusual to release a juvenile’s name at this point in the legal proceedings. 

Crighton said she covered a story in Ohio that involved a 16-year old accused in several murder cases.  She said her station did not report the teenager’s name until the court decided to charge him as an adult. She said a juvenile’s name must be protected, even if the person is accused of heinous crimes.

Panelist Rich Egger wondered if inexperienced editors made the decision to report the juvenile’s name. He pointed out newsroom staffs continue to shrink as veteran editors and journalists get pushed aside for younger and cheaper reporters who might cross an ethical line simply because they came across information in a file.

Jasmine Crighton is News Director of NEWS3 at Western Illinois University and Will Buss is the Director of Student Publications at WIU.