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Did Newspaper Immigration Story Violate the Trust of Those Interviewed?

LatinaLista — It was a Page One story in the print edition and could be found front-and-center on the homepage.

The headline reads: In McKinney, illegals are no cause for panic.

The story was basically about how a group of undocumented immigrants living in a trailer park in a Dallas suburb live quietly, more interested in working than thinking about politics — and the local town, McKinney, recognizing their desire just to work, leaves them alone.

That is, probably until Monday when it won’t be a big surprise if Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents show up amid the old trailers to round these people up as they get ready for another day of hard labor.

This time, ICE doesn’t have to subpoena the notes of the newspaper’s reporter to find out where these people lived – the name of the trailer park was in the lead sentence. It’s location was in the second paragraph.

They identify by full name those who responded to the question if they arrived legally or illegally. Reading the story, one gets the impression that maybe these people didn’t realize that what they were saying was going to appear in print, distributed to thousands of people, or maybe they didn’t know that where they lived was now going to be on ICE’s radar, as well as, every fanatic who feels it’s their patriotic duty to rid the country of undocumented immigrants.

As a story, it was well-written and balanced.

But the question needs to be asked: Was the trust of those interviewed violated?

During these times when journalists must wage a daily battle for the trust of our readers and the community-at-large, and serve jail time just to preserve our need to keep sources confidential so we can get to the heart of stories that need to be exposed and shared, it seems to be a gross insensitivity, if not a violation, to release such exact information as to bring harm or sanctions to a group, who in good faith, shared their stories with the media.

By providing the name and location of the trailer park and the full identity of these people, the reporter and his editors are, in addition to telling their stories (no matter how sympathetically), are acting as immigration agents themselves.

Was the name of the trailer park essential to the story? Was its location, beyond what city it was located in, an integral element to the newsworthiness of the story? By divulging all this information, does this reporter, or this newspaper, feel they’ll be welcomed into other immigrant communities to tell their stories?

The argument can always be made that it probably wouldn’t be hard to find that trailer park if someone really wanted to. And that’s true, but they would have had to work for it. It’s a lot easier to act on information when it’s handed to you, rather than go to the trouble and hours of researching and looking it up.

Today, newspapers, in trying to bring back readers, are redirecting their manpower and content to do what is called local or “hyperlocal” news. That means focusing on the stories in their own backyard – stories from the people who live in that community, regardless of citizenship status.

Yet, when one media violates the trust of one group, the job just got harder for everyone.

How can we tell the sensitive, news-breaking stories of people in our communities if we don’t honor the trust they have in us?

It’s one thing to tell someone’s story; it’s another to set them up for easy retaliation.

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