We decided early on that we were not going to be in the business of convincing these young people to talk to the newspaper or go before the camera or put their names out there.Jennifer Smith Richards (Chicago Tribune)
Writing about Trauma and Boundaries
David Jackson, Jennifer Smith Richards, Gary Marx, and Juan Perez, Jr. of the Chicago Tribune authored an investigative series exposing Chicago schools’ failure to protect students from sexual abuse and assault.
Though police records on juvenile suspects are sealed, as are most of the records from juvenile court proceedings, the Tribune was able to detail nearly 40 cases in which students reported being sexually attacked in Chicago schools since 2008.
Reporters obtained school files, police reports and court documents; interviewed family members and officials; and successfully petitioned the Cook County juvenile court for permission to view records in more than a dozen delinquency cases. Relatives of both victims and perpetrators provided confidential information, saying they wanted to help spotlight safety breaches and spur change.
David Jackson and Jennifer Smith Richards on Their Reporting
Q1: What, if any, special precautions should a journalist take when working with especially vulnerable victims?
Q2: In stories involving minors, a guardian’s consent is often the one of the deciding factors in whether the child can be used as a source. Why is this?
Q3: While reporting on abuse can bring justice to otherwise concealed wrongs, some criticize the same stories for being a permanent, public reminder of a traumatic time for the victim. Do you believe journalists have the right or duty to cover these stories?