October 26, 2012

Experts weigh in on publishing 'the list'

Editors seek guidelines about printing names of 'johns' in the Kennebunk prostitution case.

By Tom Bell tbell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

A CASE-BY-CASE BASIS

Laurel Coleman, a Manchester physician involved in efforts to end the worldwide practice of selling women and girls into slavery, said that society should punish the men who provide a market for prostitutes, not just the prostitutes themselves.

"When men are going to be held accountable, that will be a deterrent," she said. "The fact that they might face public shame or criminal prosecution or a punishment that is meaningful to them, they won't do that."

The Portland Press Herald plans to publish the list on its website, www.pressherald.com, when it is released. The website as a matter of routine publishes the names of everyone who appears in the police log provided by the Kennebunk Police Department.

However, the newspaper does not routinely publish detailed accounts of the police log in its print edition and therefore will not publish the list in its entirety there.

The newspaper's editors said they would consider publishing the names of prominent individual "johns" on a case-by-case basis, and their role in the community would be a major factor. Also, if one person were charged with numerous counts, that would also be a factor in deciding whether to publish a name.

WHERE TO DRAW THE LINE?

Withholding the names of defendants in a criminal case simply because publishing them would embarrass their families would be a "dangerous and slippery slope," said Cliff Schechtman, executive editor of the Portland Press Herald.

"Where do you draw the line? Disorderly conduct? Insurance fraud?" he asked.

Publishing the names, he said, is consistent with the newspaper's policy of publishing the names of defendants in criminal cases with strong public interest.

In a letter to readers in this week's edition of the York County Coast Star, a weekly newspaper that covers Kennebunk, editor Laura Dolce writes that the newspaper will publish the list, even though many people have asked the newspaper not to.

The newspaper for decades has printed the Kennebunk police log, including the names of people arrested for drunken driving, so it would be unfair to change the policy now, she writes.

Moreover, "ugly rumors" have been circulating around town about who is on the list, and it's important to set the record straight.

"How will innocent people clear their names if those who are charged with crimes are kept secret?" she asks readers. "Do they spend their lives living under a cloud of suspicion at the cost of protecting those who allegedly committed a crime?"

Now that the story has captured the attention of the state and national media, local residents have stopped asking the newspaper not to print the list, she said in an interview.

"There is a sort of acceptance in town that the names are going to become public whether our paper prints them or not," she said.

Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at:

tbell@pressherald.com

 

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