Journalists face choices about what information to present to the public with every article. In this issue there is one article in particular that we at the Indy spent a considerable amount of time deliberating.
The Board of Trustees recently acknowledged four violations of the Clark College Non-Discrimination Policy, and on Nov. 15 the Indy received a full copy of the investigative report through a public records request. The report clearly identifies former college president Bob Knight as the offender in the case, but leaves the complainants’ names redacted. Through our reporting we have identified them, but, after careful consideration, we have decided to maintain their confidentiality.
There were many factors in our decision.
We considered what harm may come from making their names public. We considered that any information made public in any format in this day and age could live forever on the internet. We also considered if knowing who made the complaints would be important to the public.
We also considered the timing of the complaints.
In April, the Washington legislature expanded protections for state employees. The new law keeps the names of people who complain confidential to protect them from possible retaliation.
The complaints against Knight were filed in May and June. We have no way to know if the timing of the complaints were coincidental or not.
We also reached out to a journalistic ethics expert at the University of Oregon, Thomas Bivins. And while we at the Indy had already made a decision when we heard back from him via email, he shared with us his opinion. “My final thought has to do with being forced into the limelight by well-intention journalists. Good intentions are not enough to validate a potentially harmful act,” Bivins wrote. We at the Indy agree.