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School knife attack poses ethical dilemma for daily

A knife attack at a local school posed an ethical dilemma for a regional daily after it first identified a schoolboy suspect before unpublishing his name and photograph.

Earlier this week the Worcester News covered an incident at a school in Malvern in which a teacher and pupil were allegedly hurt by a boy wielding a knife.

During its coverage, it published the name and a picture supplied by the police of a boy wanted in connection with the incident at the school.

However after the boy was found within minutes of the picture going online, the paper took it down.

Deputy editor John Wilson said the paper was confronted by a fast-changing situation and explained its reasoning in a post on its Facebook page.

He wrote:  “The situation changed quite dramatically, and we reacted to it. It was important that the boy was found quickly and publicity was vital while there was that need.

“Now that he has been found the priorities change. Protecting the boy becomes the most important thing.

“These sorts of dilemmas are becoming more common for publishers like the Worcester News in the era of social media.”

John also published a blog post about the paper’s coverage which he admitted had “left many of our readers perplexed.”

“Many of our readers struggled to understand our ethical juggling act. First we published the picture of the boy, then we removed it. They asked why,” he wrote.

“Our priority changed from finding a boy who may have been a danger to himself and/or others to protecting a vulnerable child.

“So we deleted his picture from our website and social media accounts. No one told us to. We were guided by the Editor’s Code; we did it because it was the right thing to do.”

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  • September 11, 2014 at 12:01 pm

    Is it ethical? Most police forces withdraw pictures used to find suspects as soon as they are arrested, also good practice not to use a picture until you know if identification is an issue once arrest made

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