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Journalistic Faux Pas or Just Lacking Class?

Washington D.C.’s CBS all-news radio station, WNEW News (99.1 FM), appears to be lacking in social graces today as they tweeted out the names of a murder-suicide in Calvert County before next of kin were alerted. They reported on their website only that a man, woman and 2-year-old child were all found dead inside a home in Owings, Md., but left them unnamed.

The offending tweet can be found here. It reads as follows: “WNEWNews: Couple In Owings Murder-Suicide Have Been Identified By Neighbor As…”

We reached out to WNEW’s News Director Michelle Dolge for comment on obtaining the information from a neighbor and releasing it before police. So far, zilch.

WTOP GM Jim Farley explained that their reporter on the scene, Michelle Basch, was waiting for family to be informed before they reported the names. “Flunking Journalism 101: you don’t ID the victims until the Sheriff notifies the next of kin, which they had not done at that point,” he wrote to FishbowlDC. “Common courtesy. How’d you like to find a close relative had been murdered by reading it in a tweet?”

At the very least WNEW offended traditional reporting rules. “Typically the onus is on official authorities, not media, to notify next of kin before releasing the names of the deceased,” explained a local City Hall reporter speaking on condition of anonymity. “If the government agency released names to the media without prior notification , that would be a mistake of the agency, not the media.”

Then again, WNEW acquired the information from a neighbor. “Now if the media outlet got the name through nonofficial police sources and reported it, then that would be rather tacky, to say the least,” the reporter added.

 

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