Saturday, December 24, 2016

WELL DONE, ANGRY LEDGER READER

I only just read this unnecessary piece about the Gatto family in the Los Feliz Ledger yesterday, though it was published Oct. 27. The title misleadingly suggests it's a look back at unresolved elements of the investigation and not a big MacGuffin of a lurid look into a struggling family.

No one can make the paper reevaluate or pull the article. There is unfortunately no unified standard of journalistic ethics for all media outlets to follow. I keep the Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics in mind when in doubt, and try to share any thorny issues with editors. I know, from my own Ledger days, that the paper's Publisher-Editor Allison Cohen would not much heed them anyways, having used her position to rail against Griffith Park preservationists and the imperfect, but mostly sincere and committed, local business improvement district. I was unfortunately a party to both, having my reporting twisted with heavy editing to unfairly slam individuals among those two groups.

But here it is anyways, in full. The section relevant to the writing about the Gattos falls under the obligation to minimize harm in the process of reporting:


As it turns out, I don't need to call Cohen out. A reader did it brilliantly. To Cohen's credit, she received the criticism directly and then posted the letter to the comment space of the article. Nicely said, Ellen Barry:

I read the article about Mr. Gatto’s unsolved murder today and was saddened to see that the Ledger decided to invade the family’s privacy in their grief by airing dirty laundry about estrangement among his children.
 
Your paper need not stoop to National Enquirer levels to inform us about what is newsworthy: the fact that the murder remains unsolved. Even though the probate issues are publicly filed, it is none of our business that the family is grappling with this additional strain as they grieve their father’s loss. I don’t have any need to know what he thought of his daughter’s relationship, nor how much money he left, or its disposition. Shame on you for trying to “spice up” a story with little heft by adding in gossipy details about his family’s life. After all, none of the family members are suspects in the murder, and they are entitled to hash out their grievances privately. And shame on the family friend for gossiping as well. I can only imagine his widow’s distress. You owe her an apology. 
Ellen Barry
Silver Lake

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