Sunday, January 22, 2012

Los Angeles Times Questionable Behavior

Is the LA Times Partially Responsible for a Homeless Death?

Imagine the outcry if a major American paper put a picture of a women walking home in the dark on the front page of the paper when illustrating a story about a serial killer targeting women who were walking home late at night.  What if they identified the woman's name and the very next week she was targeted and killed by that same serial killer.  There would be protests and calls for a resignation of the editor from other papers.  This happened in Los Angeles and there has not been a peep from the media or even an apology from the editors of the Los Angeles Times.  

The LA Times posted on Friday January 6 a story about police warning homeless people to go inside in Orange County California with a photo accompanying the story.   This photo was taken on January 5, 2012 of John Barry, 64 (identified as a homeless man in the caption along with his name) talking to Anaheim Police Mike Lynch by LA Times photographer Allan Schaban.  As we all know from watching Criminal Minds serial killers feed off their own publicity in the local newspapers.  They often play to the local news, and FBI and local law enforcement often use the media to draw out a serial killer.  A week later on Friday January 13, Barry was killed by what police are claiming is the same serial killer who had targeted and hunted down this individual pictured on the front of the LA Times.  Photographer Schaban has to be feeling horrible that he did not hide the victims identity on the first photo.  The LA Times has said nothing in the week after the tragedy apologizing for their involvement in this case.  

We publish a paper so we have some understanding of the use of images in the paper.  Almost every time a newspaper features a homeless person, donors come forward to help.  It is almost always the case that the person experiencing homeless benefits from the publicity, but this situation was different because it involved a serial killer targeting a segment of the population.  This killer was hunting down a somewhat small community living within Orange County.  There were a couple thousand people homeless in a city like Anaheim at any one time.  Not a huge population vulnerable to this killer.  A newspaper editor in a modern American city should know what the rules are with regard to posting "bait" for a serial killer.  Law enforcement should have put additional protection on Mr. Barry when he was made the face of homelessness in Anaheim by the Los Angeles Times.   I am not saying that government should get involved in publishing decisions, because nothing done by the LA Times was illegal.  It just seemed unethical for the paper to identify a homeless guy while police were searching for a serial killer targeting homeless people.  At least, the LA Times owes the family and the community an apology.  They should compensate the family or the homeless community for using John Barry's image that led to his death. 

The alleged killer hunted John Barry.  In the article, Barry indicated that he was worried that someone was watching and following him. The alleged killer was watching Barry and then killed him when he was alone.  Witnesses followed Itzcoatl Ocampo, a recently discharged US Marine, who was arrested and charged with the killing of four people including Barry all of whom were experiencing homelessness.  I just don't understand why the Police and other media are not outraged over this story.  We mourn for John Barry and send our condolences to his family as well as the other three victims of the Orange County serial killer.

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