During a previous career, I worked for twelve years as a child protection social worker and supervisor for the provincial government. This career provided profound exposure to the tremendous negative impact of child abuse on children and families.
Recently the Prince George Citizen covered the trial of a stepfather who allegedly had sexually abused his step daughters. It is my view that the coverage was profoundly disrespectful of the alleged victims and their extended family. The Citizen insisted on including graphic detail of the alleged sexual activity within the family. It is my conclusion that that there was no other purpose other than to shock readers and to increase circulation. For the Citizen a week of headlines was worth a lifetime of heartache for some young adults. On the one hand the Citizen would decry those who would add emotional abuse on to alleged sexual abuse, but this is exactly what this supposed principled family newspaper has done.
From my perspective as a former child protection supervisor, the Citizen's coverage of this trial was emotionally abusive to the alleged victims and to their extended family. Further the Citizen was a bully in that they used their bully pulpit of the printed word to repeat the emotional abuse day after day. What high journalistic standards guided the Citizen within their coverage? Would further victims come forward with their disclosures knowing that the details may be front page headlines, with no detail spared?
It seems to me that management of the Citizen and their writers have a serious responsibility to demonstrate wisdom and discretion in the stories that are covered. The coverage exhibited within this story was simply the worst. There is almost moral bankruptcy within Citizen management to allow such. That Citizen staff writers would stoop to such a professional low is disappointing as well. Should the Citizen believe that some lessons or patterns were to be learned from this case, they could have published an extensive story once the trial was concluded underscoring such. Time was not of the essence, nor were the details.
The Crown and the presiding judge also missed the mark in allowing such poor coverage to go forward.
It seems to me that some apologies by the Citizen are due. Perhaps, even some management changes, as well as recommitment to higher journalistic standards.
I await the Citizen's response as to why graphic details were necessary within the reporting.
Rolf van Driesum
Editor's Note: See Wednesday's editorial for our response and see page 2 in Wednesday's Citizen for online comments both for and against our coverage of the trial.