Can They Ever Be Trusted Again?
Why Did ABC News Decide To Publicly Out
The Name Of A 13-Year-Old Witness of The
TrayVon Martin Shooting?
Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit and others noticed on March 29th that on March 26th, ABC News published an article that revealed the name of a 13 year old minor who had given eyewitness testimony to police in the TrayVon Martin case:
Today that article still shows the name of the 13 year old eyewitness:
Here's what that page shows now:
Outing the name of an eyewitness to something like this while the investigation is still ongoing is a big deal. It's an even bigger deal when the witness in question is a 13 year old minor.
Let us remember that the name of TrayVon Martin's 16 year old girlfriend with whom he was speaking on his cell phone at the time of the shooting is still confidential because she has asked that her name not be made public.
Why did ABC News protect the privacy of a 16 year old witness but then turn around and publicly out a 13 year old witness?
I find it hard to believe that this minor's family/legal guardians told ABC News it was fine for them to publicly reveal their son's name. This family lives at Ground Zero of all the hysteria and inflammatory behavior we've been watching for the past 2 weeks, with celebrities tweeting addresses and racist groups offering bounties.
After her son was publicly outed by Gutman and Tienabeso to public scrutiny and pressure, his mother went on TV specifically to repudiate and call into question the validity of her son's eyewitness testimony to police.
On the 29th when I was researching this, and again on the 30th, the 31st, the 1st and the 2nd, pictures of the witnesses' mother during her TV appearance were in abundance on both Google and Bing. I was trying to find pictures to use in an article.
That has all now been memory holed.
Today, you cannot find ANY pictures of the mother's TV appearance on Google or Bing if you specifically search for the boy or his mother by name.
Here's what an image search of Google for '[name of the 13 year old] TrayVon Martin Mom' shows you today:
Bing image search:
The search links? If you specifically type the witnesses name into the search engine, for 1-2 entries still up about her TV appearance, they now take you to other stories.
Clicking on the link for the NY Daily News article now redirects you to a page that shows an article about the Sanford police video. The 13 year old witness and his mom are never mentioned in the article.
The only news article I could find if you specifically searched with the boy's name and his mom's name that doesn't redirect you a different story is this one from Fox News:
If you decide to leave the real names OUT of your search however, and just searched for '13 Year Old Witness TrayVon Martin Mom TV' you DO find a few stories still up - and some do have pictures:
Image searches are still tricky though:
Bing has NONE:
Google has several still up:
3 of the first 4 returns are from the TV interview. Out of respect for the family's privacy, I have removed all instances of their names that appeared in earlier versions of this article and have left this screenshot intentionally small.
So what are we to make of this? ABC News outs the name of the witness, his mother rushes onto TV to call his testimony into question, and then within a week the vast majority of the news stories and pics that were up just a few days ago have been scrubbed from the 'net.
Make no mistake what happened here: instead of neutrally and objectively reporting the news, Matt Gutman, Seni Tienabeso and others at ABC News decided to INFLUENCE the story by deliberately outing the name of a witness so that public pressure could be brought to bear on this family.
Once that public pressure had accomplished what was intended, the shield of confidentiality seems to have been quickly put back in place.
Witness confidentiality in speaking to media is a bedrock principle of journalism. In sensitive, controversial cases, you can only get people to talk to you by promising them anonymity.
Anonymity in a case like this is crucial because it shelters people from exactly the kind of public pressure and abuse that might cause them not come forward in the first place.
If you put a wall back up after having taken it down, aren't you really admitting you never should have taken that wall down in the first place?
Who will EVER trust these reporters and ABC News now?
This minor eyewitness and his family deserved better than this from ABC News. If no permission to use his name was granted, somebody at ABC News needs to be held accountable for this journalistic malpractice.
UPDATE: I have tweeted ABC News reporter Matt Gutman in an attempt to clarify if he ever got permission from this minor's family or legal guardians to use his name in public.
UPDATE II: After getting some feedback on Twitter, I have decided to scrub the name of the minor and his mother from the article. I can still show what happened without compromising their privacy like ABC News did. After first thinking there was no reason not to mention the names because ABC News had already done the damage and the mother had already appeared on TV, I considered that if much of the internet had made the decision to give them back their privacy, I had better also.
This doesn't excuse what Gutman and Tienabeso did, however so I am still going to pursue this and attempt to discover if these reporters ever received permission to go public with the witnesses identity.
UPDATE III: As far was what the minor's mother had to say in her TV interview, we need to remember what police procedure is when questioning eyewitnesses, especially minors. A parent or legal guardian must be present. Many police departments video tape or at least audiotape witness interviews. Witnesses are asked to sign a summary of their statement. In the future, if this goes to a trial, we'll likely get to see if there are any marked differences between what the minor told police in his official eyewitness statement and how his mother characterized that statement when she went public.
UPDATE IV: ABC News reporter Matt Gutmann has gotten back to me on Twitter:
Does saying the interview was 'on the record' and 'on cam' and done 'twice' = 'permission to publicly reveal 13 year old minor's identity? I'm not sure so I'm asking Matt to specifically say "Yes, the family gave me permission to use the name of their minor son."