It seems as soon as McKay Allen shared the details of the probable cause documents with us, much of our focus and discussion centered on the victims. As a station, our policy is to not identify the victims of sexual assault (unless they are adults who want to tell their story).
In the case of Pamela Ortega, we went back and forth. Do we let the public know the victims were her own children, or do we just say they are “relatives”. Does that open the door to people in the community in which they live, to scrutinize cousins or nieces or nephews, etc?
Though no actual names of the victims will be in our stories, some of us felt we shouldn’t even report the relationship. Others felt we should. Her children undoubtably had friends over. Those parents need to know that their children may have been in a dangerous situation.
The discussion went on and on, so, we turned to the experts for a different perspective. I just got out of a meeting with the news director, executive producer and reporter McKay Allen. They just got off the phone with the experts at the Poynter Institute (is a school and resource for journalism). The folks there don’t tell us what to do, but, become a sounding board with much ethical and legal background knowledge.
Part of Poynter’s discussion with us focused on the age of the victims. The children are considered under the “age of reason”. That basically means that they are too young to feel the embarrassment and shame that many people feel when they’ve been victims of such crimes.
What also played a part in our decision, is that we learned that the children no longer live in the community in which the alleged crimes occured.
This story will be unfolding in the days and months ahead.. and, you’ll not only be seeing and hearing what we uncover, you’ll be learning about the help the victims will get. You’ll hear about that key phone call that saved them from further abuse.. and how the community can help potential victims, and what each and everyone of us has the responsibility to do so.
McKay Allen’s investigation:
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