If someone we know were to be attacked we'd all want to do what we could to help. We might think that a reasonably well read weblog offered a useful platform for doing so. But would it be ethical?
Stuart Bruce (who I know and respect) has a post today, Can you help with blog justice? He writes:
Jackie Danicki.... has been attacked while travelling on the Underground.
If you know this man then please contact British Transport Police on 0800 40 50 40. The assault took place on the southbound Bakerloo line platform at Baker Street, and the abuse continued from there to Piccadilly Circus.
The kid in the picture above doesn’t look very harmful, right? He’s reasonably well-dressed, anyway. But actually, he is quite a large fellow, and likes to assault random women with the help of an equally vile friend of his.
If you don't know him, can you post a link of the photo in case your readers might know who he is?
When I read Stuart's post, the journalist in me kicked in and I did what any reporter would do. I called the police on the number given, which turns out to be a national helpline. Following their advice I spoke to the Transport Police Control Room who in turn gave me two numbers for CID at Central London Police. After a couple of tries I spoke to an officer who wasn't able to confirm that a complaint had been made. This isn't in anyway to suggest that it hadn't been made, it was simply that he couldn't quickly see it on the records available.
I am not casting doubt on Jackie's story and my instincts are to sympathise with her. But, as the CIPR thinks about a social media code of conduct which includes issues of competence, I wonder if this incident highlights an important distinction between citizen journalism and its more established equivalent?