The New York Times’ decision to publish the street on which Officer Darren Wilson and his wife live, has “not gone unnoticed by Ferguson’s protesters,” Breitbart Big Journalism reported Tuesday. “Slate even went a step further than the Times, publishing an article featuring a photo of the modest, red-brick house on Monday…
“A number of Twitter users — some of whom have identified themselves as planning to protest the grand jury decision — have tweeted the location of Wilson’s home as they gear up for rallies,” the report continues. “The house number was not printed in the Times, but the street in the St. Louis suburb of Crestwood where it sits is only about two blocks long, and the house number can be easily located via online sources using only the street name and Wilson’s name.”
Outrage and charges of gross irresponsibility and worse were expressed by numerous comment posters to the Breitbart article and at news and commentary websites appalled by The Times’ editorial decision. Calls to respond by publishing the addresses of the reporters responsible for including Wilson’s home address information were numerous.
“The New York Times have published Darren Wilson’s home address,” cartoonist Chris Muir, who publishes the freedom-oriented “Day By Day” webcomic strip, noted on his website. “The reporters are Julie Bosman and Campbell Robertson. I will pay $100 for anyone who publishes their addresses and any pertinent data on them. Cash.”
Muir’s request did not have long to wait before a comment poster notified him and other readers that the information with alleged home addresses of both reporters has already been published by Charles C. Johnson on GotNews.com. Johnson maintained his site was normally against such practices, but acknowledged he had previously “published the address of Ebola patient Nina Pham so that people could avoid going to her Houston apartment.
“I called the homes of both @campbellnyt& @juliebosman to ask them about their decision to publish #DarrenWilson’s address in the NYT,” Johnson reported to his followers on Twitter. Following that tweet, attempting to access his feed temporarily resulted in an “Account Suspended” message.
This is hardly the first time activists have responded to media outlets publishing personal information with retaliatory moves against publishers and other employees. Following the Journal News, also in New York, publishing a map of gun owner locations “ex-crooks” called a “gold mine” of information, reprisals resulted in the paper hiring armed security.
It’s obvious the practice of providing physical addresses of people for whom anger exists can heighten physical dangers. Real risks also exist that persons with the same or similar names could be targeted instead. Likewise, the lives and homes of neighbors of Officer Wilson have now been put at risk by The Times’ decision to narrow the hunt for him by those bent on murderous revenge, upping the probabilities for expanded violence and further rage-fueled confrontations with authorities.
Online resources make finding individuals something that many internet users can do. Websites exist that offer to find information on people that includes not only where they are, but also employment histories and personal information, and even if they have criminal backgrounds. Privacy is increasingly becoming a thing of the past, often exacerbated by what the unwary innocently volunteer about themselves on social media.
While the conduct of online activists is problematic to exert control over beyond requirements imposed by private websites, or via legal prohibitions against libel and the like, a newspaper like The New York Times presents itself as having “Standards and Ethics.” That page links to “Professional Guideline Documents” that include one for “Integrity” and another for “Ethical Journalism.” A perusal of both policies shows no prohibitions against publishing the whereabouts of individuals at the center of volatile public controversies for whom numerous anonymous threats of violence and death wishes have been expressed.