Toronto Star public editor Kathy English explained and defended the newspaper’s decision to name “a 71-year-old woman with advanced dementia,” Danae Chambers, who was allegedly raped in her nursing home in a Nov. 17 report on nursing home abuse.
The Star published a Nov. 17 story “Nursing home residents abused” and five photos of Chambers at various ages and in her nursing home bed. In the Nov. 17 report, the Star explains that police are charging a male nurse at the nursing home with raping Chambers in April. The Star also noted that “Though victims of sexual assault are not usually identified in the media, [Chambers’ guardian] Schrofer and Chambers’ brother, Parker Williams, said they wanted her name used to draw attention to the dangers vulnerable women face in nursing homes.”
The day after the Star’s investigative report on the allegations Chambers was raped, the Star reported that a task force was created in response to the Star’s revelations.
According to English’s Nov. 18 public editor column, the newspaper’s editors debated how to handle identifying the woman, whose “brother and her guardian wanted her named to draw attention to the dangers vulnerable women face in nursing homes.” Her guardian, Anna Schrofer, told English that she thought identifying Chambers could have a greater “impact.”
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By naming the woman, the newspaper’s investigations editor Kevin Donovan explained to English that the newspaper wanted to “put a human face to a problem we are told is prevalent and under-reported.” English also cited reporter Moira Welsh’s comments that identifying the woman could help “break that taboo” of abuse of the elderly.
Last year, the Toronto Star reported another controversial nursing home story. As iMediaEthics wrote in October 2010, the newspaper had one of its reporters, Dale Brazao, go undercover in a Canadian nursing home following complaints that the nursing home had “potentially serious problems.”
The Star’s expose included Brazao’s first person experience as a resident of the home for a week and research by one of the reporters in the Danae Chambers rape report, Moira Welsh. The Star’s investigations editor Donovan told English that Brazao’s undercover work was “necessary” because he found it to be “a rare case where we could not properly tell the story without seeing what was going on inside.”