The Niagara News is the community newspaper of Niagara College located in Welland and Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada. It is created and produced by the students of the Niagara College Journalism program.
It’s not a matter of simply stepping on toes. Rather, it is a matter of embarrassing victims, families and emphasizing the wrong points.
I’m talking about the now infamous Col. Russell Williams murder case.
It’s true, society has become more jaded toward television violence, and more open-minded to the idea that mental illness is often a factor in horrendous crimes such as this.
What do we need to know about this case, and what could we have done without?
The Toronto Star stirred up controversy regarding its front-page photo of Williams dressed in a victim’s underwear.
What is more, the paper offered a slide-show image gallery of Williams in women’s bathing suits and underwear, and photos of the neatly arranged undergarments he stole from victims.
This goes above and beyond the call for truth in reporting.
Williams deserves to be embarrassed by what he’s done, just as all wrongdoers deserve to be. But haven’t the victims and their families have suffered enough?
The public doesn’t need to know what the murdered girls wore under their clothes while they were alive nor photos of Williams wearing them splashed on pages of newspapers.
The public does not need to know, in every gory detail, what Williams did while he stalked his prey or what he did in the over 80 bedrooms he was reported to have broken into.
The photos of Williams cross-dressing send the wrong message.
The point is not that he is a cross-dresser; the point is he invaded the privacy of over 80 people and murdered two young women.
The records he kept could be put to use through proper channels to help professionals in criminal psychology understand his illness and perhaps create new ways to screen for this particular disorder in the future.
They serve little purpose, however, in public view other than to create controversy and to make people afraid.
Just because the information is readily available doesn’t necessarily mean it needs to be printed.