The supermarket tabloid the Globe has published a high school photograph of the 19-year-old woman who accuses Kobe Bryant of rape. The woman is shown lifting up her prom dress to reveal a garter belt. The headline reads: “Kobe Bryant’s Accuser: Did she really say no?” Next to the photo, in half-inch type, is the 19-year-old woman’s name.
Salon.com notes that “the Globe’s behavior has been followed in the past by the mainstream media. Back in 1991, it was the Globe that broke with the journalistic tradition of protecting the identity of possible rape victims and revealed the name of the woman accusing Kennedy scion William Kennedy Smith of raping her. NBC and The New York Times eventually followed suit.”
“The tabloidization of the American media is horrid and unstoppable,” said Prof. Stephen Isaacs of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, who teaches a class on ethics. Isaacs, who is unusual among journalists in his view that the names of accusers in rape cases should be published, said, “I think naming her is cool, but running a picture of her with a garter belt — that’s mawkish and obviously meant to sell papers. That is the tabloidization of the American press.”
Geneva Overholser, a professor of journalism at the Washington bureau of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, had not seen the Globe, but after hearing a description of the layout, she called it “the worst kind of journalistic voyeurism.” She believes that situations like the Kobe Bryant case serve as an argument for making the identification of alleged rape victims standard. “If we named them in the mainstream media, it wouldn’t be such a catch for the tabloids,” she said. “There wouldn’t be such a forbidden, look-at-me thing.”
To magazine editors in New York, the ethics involved in naming a possible rape victim took a back seat to the look-at-me nature of the Globe’s cover. “I think every female editor who woke up this morning and saw that in the paper probably had their breath taken away,” said Us Weekly’s editor in chief Janice Min. “I just looked at it and thought, Oh my God that’s so wrong.”