Whenever crimes allegedly occur within the Yale community, the editors of the Yale Daily News see an obligation to report on them responsibly and completely. In light of recent news events, we felt it might be helpful to explain our policies on reporting arrests that occur on the Yale campus or involve members of the Yale community.
Our policies are consistent with those of most newspapers across the country, from small-town weeklies to national dailies. And most importantly, we take care to follow them uniformly — regardless of who the accuser or the accused is — to ensure that we do not grant preferential treatment.
When members of the Yale community are arrested or arrests are made on the Yale campus, our practice is to do the following:
• Report the charges that have been filed in a responsible way that gives our readers as much information as possible without sensationalizing the events. That includes identifying those who are arrested by name and, for the most serious allegations, visually. Likewise, if the substance of the charges filed is contested, we require an accuser to be identified as well — except in the case of alleged sex crimes.
• Go to whatever lengths necessary to ensure that those who have been accused, or a representative speaking on their behalf, have an opportunity to respond in full to any charges filed against them.
• Follow up on the charges by reporting the results of any legal proceedings with the same vigor as the original charges.
We recognize that this policy presents a potential pitfall. Under our legal system, a defendant is innocent until proven guilty. But in the court of public opinion, an accused person may not be given the same privilege. If a person accused of a crime is eventually found not guilty, the damage done to his or her reputation — including through the press — cannot be undone. At the same time, in the case of alleged sex crimes, we offer an accuser anonymity without knowing whether his or her charges will pass muster in a court of law.
But like our peers at newspapers across the country, we believe we cannot justify withholding the identity of an individual accused of a serious crime once the charge has been filed and thus entered the public record. At the same time, we believe that naming an accuser — whose identity often is not released publicly when charges are filed — would have a chilling effect on the reporting of sex crimes to police.
What we can do — and pledge to do — is follow crime stories to their completion, and if the accused is acquitted, to ensure that we are as diligent in reporting that information as we are in covering the initial substance of the charges.
If you have any questions about these policies, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We take our obligation to report on crime seriously, and we are always receptive to your comments and concerns.
— Jacob Leibenluft
Editor in Chief, Yale Daily News