Twin Cities Media Debate When To Use Suspects’ Names


On Monday Minneapolis police arrested Tyeric Lessley in the death of a man who’d been shot downtown, reports KSTP-Channel 5 used In Tuesday’s paper, the Star Tribune didn’t. Lessley hadn’t been charged; for at least a decade, the paper has resisted naming such suspects. The Star Tribune did put the name online. News director Scott Libin is changing the guidelines at WCCO-Channel 4, which has had a similarly high disclosure wall. His station reported Lessley’s name that same day as Channel 5.

At the St. Paul Pioneer Press, “we name names,” says public-safety team leader Hal Davis. Libin of Channel 4 says “We now start from the premise that reporting truths is our primary obligation, and that we withhold such information only for a good reason.” Veteran Channel 4 cops reporter Caroline Lowe says, “My concern is you can never give back a reputation if the person is never charged. How can we minimize the harm?” At the Star Tribune, Assistant Managing Editor Paul Klauda says his paper’s protocol allows four basic exceptions: when there’s no doubt who committed the act, when the suspect puts himself or herself in the limelight, when the suspect is a public figure, and perhaps the most gaping of all, when the case has high public interest. Lowe says – and Libin agrees – that follow-up is mandatory. If the station reports someone’s arrest, it must also report if charges are never filed or dropped. “How’s that going to work?” Lowe wonders. “We lead the news with the arrest, are we going to lead the news with charges dropped?”


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