Thursday, October 28, 2004

Guidelines for Survivors who deali with the News Media

US Department of Justice: The News Media's Coverage of Crime and Victimization
Last updated: December 28, 2004

Guidelines for Victims Who Choose to Deal With the Media

A brochure published by the National Center for Victims of Crime in 1987 entitled Victims' Rights and the Media offers valuable guidelines to crime victims whose cases are covered by print and broadcast news media. While the "rights" enumerated in this brochure are not mandated by statute or policy, they should be considered guiding principles provided by all service providers to crime victims prior to dealing with the news media.


  1. Say "no" to an interview.
  2. Select the spokesperson or advocate of your choice.
  3. Select the time and location for media interviews.
  4. Request a specific reporter.
  5. Refuse an interview with a specific reporter even though you have granted interviews to other reporters.
  6. Say "no" to an interview even though you have previously granted interviews.
  7. Release a written statement through a spokesperson in lieu of an interview.
  8. Exclude children from interviews.
  9. Refrain from answering any questions with which you are uncomfortable or that you feel are inappropriate.
  10. Know in advance the direction the story about your victimization is going to take.
  11. Avoid a press conference atmosphere and speak to only one reporter at a time.
  12. Demand a correction when inaccurate information is reported.
  13. Ask that offensive photographs or visuals be omitted from broadcast or publication.
  14. Conduct a television interview using a silhouette or a newspaper interview without having your photograph taken.
  15. Completely give your side of the story related to your victimization.
  16. Refrain from answering reporters' questions during trial.
  17. File a formal complaint against a journalist.
  18. Grieve in privacy.
  19. Suggest training about media and victims for print and electronic media in your community (Seymour and Lowrance 1988, 7-10).

Guidelines for Television Talk Shows and Crime Victim Guests
In the past two decades, television talk shows have emerged as a powerful genre to address various issues of importance to the public, including crime. While such programs can have a powerful impact on promoting victims' rights and needs, they can also be traumatic to victim guests whose cases are sensationalized, or who are treated in an insensitive manner.
Recognizing the need for accountability from television talk shows, the National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC 1994) developed guidelines for talk shows and crime victim guests that promote victim sensitivity and reduce opportunities for "re-victimizing victims."

Television talk shows should use only those victims who have had the benefit of counseling and guidance from a trained victim counselor, professional, or advocate.

Crime victims should not appear in the immediate wake of their victimization, particularly if they have not had the advantage of counseling by professional victim advocates and service providers.

Child victims should not be guests.

A professionally trained victim advocate or crisis counselor should be on hand at all times.

Crime victims should be treated with dignity and respect at all times.

Crime victims should always be fully informed about the format of the show; how their story will be told; who else will appear (in person or otherwise such as from a remote location); and what subjects will be discussed with each guest. Whenever possible, victims should be provided with copies of the producer's notes on each guest.

If an offender (any offender) is to be physically present in the studio or elsewhere in the facility, the victim should be given notice of the specific facts and asked what arrangements can be made in the studio to make the victim feel comfortable and safe if he or she chooses to be a guest. Every precaution should be taken to prevent the offender and the victim from "crossing paths" before, during, and after the show.

Victims should be offered the opportunity to get comfortable with the set by allowing them to arrive early, or even the day before the actual taping.

Victims should always have the right to view pictures, video/audio tapes, and graphic or other depictions that will air as part of the show.

Victims should be informed in advance of the option to protect their anonymity by whatever means are necessary such as silhouette screens, disguises, electronic voice alteration, pixel and fog screening, etc.

When the victim desires, no information should be presented that would disclose the location of their home, place of work, or whereabouts.

Victims should have the right to request that their show not air in certain markets if there are safety concerns.

Victims should have the opportunity to request that disclosures which compromise their anonymity or safety be edited from the broadcast program.

Victims should be informed of when the original show will air and when the show will be re-broadcast.

Victims in the viewing audience may experience a crisis reaction while watching a show about crime victimization experiences. It is strongly advised that producers provide a disclaimer at the beginning of the show cautioning viewers of the content.

Code of Ethics for Victim Advocates in Dealing With the News Media
In 1988, the National Center for Victims of Crime published a suggested code of ethics for victim advocates in the media. With adherence to these recommended guidelines (which were updated in 1995), victim advocates can ease the trauma of the news media's coverage of crime and victims and, at the same time, assist the news media in their attempts to focus public attention on crime in our nation:

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