How should journalists have handled Kobe's sexual assault charge?

Opinion Feb 14, 2020 by Gordon Cameron hamiltonnews.com

It’s about trust. Our relationship with our readers is built on transparency, honesty and integrity. As such, we have launched a trust initiative to tell you who we are and how and why we do what we do. This article is part of that project.

I’m not a basketball fan, but even I knew the name Kobe Bryant. So, like the rest of the world I was shocked to hear that he and eight others were killed in a helicopter crash in late January.

It took a little while, but amidst the mourning and fond memories of his career on the hardwood, some members of the media and others started reminding the world of the fact that he was charged with sexual assault against a Colorado woman in 2003. The charges were eventually dropped when the woman became unwilling to testify, and a civil suit against Bryant over the incident was settled for an undisclosed amount.

Much ink has been spilled over how the media should have handled this section of his biography, with many Kobe fans castigating journalists for even bringing it up.

While I don’t believe that someone’s entire life story can be reduced to only its darkest chapter, to ignore it completely would be a whitewashing of the truth. A journalist’s first duty is to the truth. Our second duty is to fairness. We have no other duties.

So what does fairness look like in this case?

To my mind, any general look back on his life longer than a brief should include mention of the charge with a brief explanation of the circumstances and the resolution. The amount of detail that’s required depends on the length of the profile.

It also matters where you put this information into the story. Given the fact that he wasn’t convicted of a crime, it wouldn’t be fair to place the fact that he was charged too far up in the story. However, in a case of someone like Jeffrey Epstein who was a convicted sex offender, it is entirely fair to mention that fact in the first line of any story about him.

I would say that it’s also fair for a journalist writing solely about his basketball prowess to not mention the case at all, in the same way that I think it would be fair to only mention his NBA career in passing in a story about the history of Colorado incident. Both stories have their place as they speak to the totality of his life.

It’s not speaking ill of the dead when it’s both true and fair. It’s just good journalism.

— Gordon Cameron is group managing editor for Hamilton Community News.

We welcome your questions and value your comments. Email our trust committee at trust@metroland.com.

How should journalists have handled Kobe Bryant's sexual assault charge in writing about his death?

Columnist Gordon Cameron looks at Kobe's legal legacy

Opinion Feb 14, 2020 by Gordon Cameron hamiltonnews.com

It’s about trust. Our relationship with our readers is built on transparency, honesty and integrity. As such, we have launched a trust initiative to tell you who we are and how and why we do what we do. This article is part of that project.

I’m not a basketball fan, but even I knew the name Kobe Bryant. So, like the rest of the world I was shocked to hear that he and eight others were killed in a helicopter crash in late January.

It took a little while, but amidst the mourning and fond memories of his career on the hardwood, some members of the media and others started reminding the world of the fact that he was charged with sexual assault against a Colorado woman in 2003. The charges were eventually dropped when the woman became unwilling to testify, and a civil suit against Bryant over the incident was settled for an undisclosed amount.

Much ink has been spilled over how the media should have handled this section of his biography, with many Kobe fans castigating journalists for even bringing it up.

A journalist’s first duty is to the truth. Our second duty is to fairness. We have no other duties.

While I don’t believe that someone’s entire life story can be reduced to only its darkest chapter, to ignore it completely would be a whitewashing of the truth. A journalist’s first duty is to the truth. Our second duty is to fairness. We have no other duties.

So what does fairness look like in this case?

To my mind, any general look back on his life longer than a brief should include mention of the charge with a brief explanation of the circumstances and the resolution. The amount of detail that’s required depends on the length of the profile.

It also matters where you put this information into the story. Given the fact that he wasn’t convicted of a crime, it wouldn’t be fair to place the fact that he was charged too far up in the story. However, in a case of someone like Jeffrey Epstein who was a convicted sex offender, it is entirely fair to mention that fact in the first line of any story about him.

I would say that it’s also fair for a journalist writing solely about his basketball prowess to not mention the case at all, in the same way that I think it would be fair to only mention his NBA career in passing in a story about the history of Colorado incident. Both stories have their place as they speak to the totality of his life.

It’s not speaking ill of the dead when it’s both true and fair. It’s just good journalism.

— Gordon Cameron is group managing editor for Hamilton Community News.

We welcome your questions and value your comments. Email our trust committee at trust@metroland.com.

How should journalists have handled Kobe Bryant's sexual assault charge in writing about his death?

Columnist Gordon Cameron looks at Kobe's legal legacy

Opinion Feb 14, 2020 by Gordon Cameron hamiltonnews.com

It’s about trust. Our relationship with our readers is built on transparency, honesty and integrity. As such, we have launched a trust initiative to tell you who we are and how and why we do what we do. This article is part of that project.

I’m not a basketball fan, but even I knew the name Kobe Bryant. So, like the rest of the world I was shocked to hear that he and eight others were killed in a helicopter crash in late January.

It took a little while, but amidst the mourning and fond memories of his career on the hardwood, some members of the media and others started reminding the world of the fact that he was charged with sexual assault against a Colorado woman in 2003. The charges were eventually dropped when the woman became unwilling to testify, and a civil suit against Bryant over the incident was settled for an undisclosed amount.

Much ink has been spilled over how the media should have handled this section of his biography, with many Kobe fans castigating journalists for even bringing it up.

A journalist’s first duty is to the truth. Our second duty is to fairness. We have no other duties.

While I don’t believe that someone’s entire life story can be reduced to only its darkest chapter, to ignore it completely would be a whitewashing of the truth. A journalist’s first duty is to the truth. Our second duty is to fairness. We have no other duties.

So what does fairness look like in this case?

To my mind, any general look back on his life longer than a brief should include mention of the charge with a brief explanation of the circumstances and the resolution. The amount of detail that’s required depends on the length of the profile.

It also matters where you put this information into the story. Given the fact that he wasn’t convicted of a crime, it wouldn’t be fair to place the fact that he was charged too far up in the story. However, in a case of someone like Jeffrey Epstein who was a convicted sex offender, it is entirely fair to mention that fact in the first line of any story about him.

I would say that it’s also fair for a journalist writing solely about his basketball prowess to not mention the case at all, in the same way that I think it would be fair to only mention his NBA career in passing in a story about the history of Colorado incident. Both stories have their place as they speak to the totality of his life.

It’s not speaking ill of the dead when it’s both true and fair. It’s just good journalism.

— Gordon Cameron is group managing editor for Hamilton Community News.

We welcome your questions and value your comments. Email our trust committee at trust@metroland.com.