One more thing on this “Nick Kristof named a 9-year-old rape victim!” controversy. In my, “Thanks for your time in the middle of Congo, Nick Kristof” email, I mentioned I’d face a similar, though totally unscrutinized, decision in Liberia last year. He replied that he had too — and he’d not used a girl’s name, and obscured her face in video, because in urban Monrovia, it was much more likely that she could be identified.
“That protected her, but it also meant the column and video had less of an impact,” he wrote in an email.
That fascinates me. Obviously I love you all, fair readers, but if we were to march into Braveheart-style battle against Nick Kristof’s readers, you would be so outnumbered that no one might notice we showed up on the field. But Kristof is a guy with a platform big enough to notice that choice.
Which means it is a real choice. You trade some kind of impact for anonymity. I’m a disconnected journalist — a self-employed freelancer whose work runs months after she files it; unless I get a Google alert for myself, sometimes I forget there’s a new piece of mine out there. Even if the only person reading a story is my mom, I take the responsibility of that choice seriously. But to me it more often feels like another case study in ethics than a measurable decision. But having plowed through the comments on Kristof’s blog on several occasions, it’s obvious Kristof is a guy who can measure that decision.
So, readers, here’s the scenario: You know that anonymizing the 9-year-old means your column has less impact. You know no one in her village is probably ever going to see it. Do you use her name? Why or why not?
(This post is the second of what turned out to be two posts on my email exchange with Kristof. The first is here.)