Hamilton Spectator: Victim Impact Statement

Open Source
Publication date: June 2013
Pages: 6

At 10:30 p.m. on April 18, 2013, Paul Berton, Editor-in-Chief of the Hamilton Spectator, was wondering whether to include a victim impact statement along with the story planned for the following day’s paper. Julie Daly, wife of murder victim John Daly, had made the compelling statement that day in court, preceding the sentencing of her husband’s killer. But a report of the sentencing and a transcript of Julie’s statement published on thespec.com that same afternoon prompted Julie to call the city editor, Carla Ammerata, and ask that the story and transcript be removed to protect her privacy. Carla, unsure what to do, called Paul to ask how to proceed. Paul needed to decide quickly whether the story should go out as planned or not.

This case is intended for an introductory course in journalism generally, or journalism ethics, specifically. The normal participant is an entry-level journalism student in a diploma or undergraduate program with little-to-no previous knowledge of ethical decision making within the context of the profession.

The theoretical concepts in this case focus on ethical decision making in relation to the primary issue of privacy versus the public’s right to know (especially with regards to the treatment of victims), and the secondary issue of conflict of interest. More broadly, students may develop some understanding of the news media’s role and influence in relation to justice.

Hamilton Spectator:  Victim Impact Statement Teaching Note