New York Times criticized for revealing too many details about alleged Penn State sex abuse victim; ESPN questioned over Syracuse tape

Dylan Stableford
The Cutline

The Patriot-News, the newspaper that broke the story of the child sex-abuse case against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, has been careful not to reveal the names of the alleged victims in its reporting.

But David Newhouse, editor of the Patriot-News, is livid that the New York Times revealed too much information about one of the alleged victims in a story last week.

Newhouse says that a Times' piece ("For a Reported Penn State Victim, a Search for Trust") written by Nare Schweber and Jo Becker published Wednesday is "so detailed," a simple Google search of its contents "results in the young man's name within seconds."

Newhouse writes in an editor's note:

The story quotes his next-door neighbor and names his neighborhood. It describes the detailed circumstances of a car accident which was reported in local papers at the time. It says he liked to wear tie-dyed socks. None of these details have anything to do with why or how the boy was allegedly befriended and then assaulted over several years by Sandusky. They only serve to make the boy easily identifiable.

You could call the anonymity maintained in the story a polite fiction, but there is nothing polite about it.

"We have been extremely careful not to reveal any details about Victim One which would help someone make that identification," Newhouse wrote. "We certainly had them, long before other news organizations.

"The Sandusky child sex abuse story has showed the difference between truly protecting the identity of a victim and the fiction of protecting the identity of a victim," Newhouse added. "Victim One told the grand jury that he had been victimized by Jerry Sandusky. Now he is being victimized again--this time, by a frenzied news media that essentially name the victim in the pursuit of salacious details."

Meanwhile, in a case eerily reminiscent of the Sandusky story, three alleged victims have lodged sexual-abuse charges against Bernie Fine, a Syracuse University assistant basketball coach.

One of those victims, Bobby Davis, recorded a 2002 phone conversation with Fine's wife, Laurie, who admitted her husband "has issues" and that Davis "trusted someone [he] shouldn't have."

Davis gave a tape of the conversation to the Syracuse Post-Standard in late 2002, and to ESPN in 2003.

The Post-Standard said it conducted a six-month investigation after acquiring the tape, but declined to publish the contents of the tape because it could not find witnesses nor "enough corroborating evidence or a second accuser."

ESPN, which aired the tape on Sunday, said it did not report Davis' accusations or report the contents of the tape until now "because no one else would corroborate his story."

ESPN reporter Mark Schwartz said the network ran the tape by a voice recognition expert who confirmed the voice on the tape was Laurie Fine. Why ESPN did not run it by a voice recognition expert in 2003 is unclear. A spokesman for the network pointed to a Q&A with ESPN news director Vince Doria about the case published on an ESPN blog.

"When we had the audio in the past we had never been able to confirm that it was Laurie Fine," Doria said. "Part of it was we had no independent video of her and her voice--something we could look at and say, 'Yes, that's her and yes, that appears to be her voice.'" Doria said that ESPN found independent video of Laurie Fine online, and the voice recognition expert was able to match that footage with the voice on the Davis tape.

ESPN said it did not give the tape to police--but reported that Davis and another alleged victim, Mike Lange, gave the tape to authorities after they were interviewed by police 10 days ago.

Fine, who had been on leave, was fired by Syracuse on Monday.

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