Cleveland ABC-affiliate WEWS (NewsNet 5) unpublished an article and apologized for its “poor judgment call” in reporting on the criminal past of Charles Ramsey, the man who helped rescue Amanda Berry from neighbor Ariel Castro’s house.
Castro has been charged with raping Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight and kidnapping the three women as well as Berry’s six-year-old child, whom Castro fathered.
Shortly after the four were found, the Smoking Gun posted a story about Ramsey’s past. WEWS likewise picked up on the angle of Ramsey’s criminal background, according to Mediaite.
While a link to the WEWS story now goes to an error page, iMediaEthics found the story through a Google Cache. The article was headlined: “Charles Ramsey who helped Amanda Berry escape from Cleveland house convicted of domestic violence.”
The article was written by the station’s Jen Steer and reports on Ramsey’s “long criminal history” citing “a search of the Cuyahoga Common Pleas and Cleveland Municipal Court documents.” Steer’s story for WEWS didn’t mention The Smoking Gun’s story.
On May 9, the station posted an apology to its Facebook page that called the report “factually sound” but “not in good taste.” The apology reads:
“TO OUR READERS & FOLLOWERS: We heard you. Wednesday night, we made a poor judgment call in posting a story about Charles Ramsey’s criminal record and how he’s since reformed. While the story was factually sound, the timing of it and publication of such information was not in good taste, and we regret it. Your comments prompted us to quickly remove the story from our website and Facebook page, but we know we can’t erase what we’ve already done. Ramsey is a hero for his actions, and we recognize that. Thank you so much for your feedback.”
Poynter appears to be the first site to pick the the WEWS apology.
As iMediaEthics wrote Thursday, one of the main journalism ethics questions raised by the Cleveland kidnappings is whether media should name and show the face of Amanda Berry’s daughter. The New York Times told iMediaEthics that, like the Globe and Mail, the newspaper doesn’t intend to identify the girl.
iMediaEthics has written to News Net 5’s Steer asking what prompted the decision to unpublish and apologize, if the station has apologized to Ramsey directly and if she has any comment about the apology for her story. Steer said she didn’t “think I’m allowed to say anything about it” and referred us to “the higher-ups.” We’ve sent our questions to station management and will update with any response.
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