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Kansas City Star readers representative Derek Donovan questioned in a recent column if journalists should look into a source’s criminal history before citing the source in a recent column.

Specifically, Donovan was responding to a Star reporter’s concerns over an already-published story that “featured” a man who was convicted thirty yeras ago “for molesting a 10-year-old girl” in another state. Because the story was unrelated to the man’s crime and “the man was actually a rather minor part” of the story, Donovan wondered if the prior knowldge of the man’s past wuold have affected his being used in the story.

“In this case, the horse is out of the barn. Although it’s easy to say this in hindsight, the entire question of the source’s appropriateness would have been negated simply by finding another person whose situation reflected the story’s theme.

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“On the other hand, there’s a strong counter-argument that the criminal justice system establishes appropriate punishment and that a person’s debt is served afterward. Does that mean journalists should consider any prior offender off-limits even in the context of a completely unrelated story?”

What do you think? Read Donovan’s column here.

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Kansas City Star: Does Criminal Past Matter for Sourcing?

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