Not surprisingly my last post about Jackie Danicki, who published a photograph of a man she says assaulted her on a tube train, has sparked debate. Jackie herself has commented, suggesting I am making unsubstantiated assumptions about her credibility with those posting this information; Stuart Bruce has posted his reflections on Check your facts before blogging from the hip.
My point remains the same; I am not questioning the validity of Jackie's story, I am questioning the ethical legitimacy of those who are taking the case forward. Indeed, it is the fact that two of the bloggers are Stuart, a respected PR blogger (and friend) and Tom Watson, Labour MP for West Bromwich East, that make the case interesting for me.
They both know Jackie and they were both trying to help. But Tom's post is titled Do you know this man? and under the picture he writes "He is wanted in connection with an assault on my blogging friend..." and gives a police telephone number.
Well, hang on, Tom. I think many readers would infer from this that he is wanted by the police in connection with the (alleged) assault. Yesterday, I couldn't confirm that the police wanted this man (or indeed that that they were aware of the incident) and Jackie herself says:
I have yet to hear from the investigating officer, but as this happened and was reported on a Friday afternoon, I am not sure whether or not to expect to have heard from anyone yet.
In my view a newspaper would be very unwise to print the picture and story in the way Tom has done. This is not to criticise Tom, but to make a comment about citizen journalism, or more broadly, the way in which blogs interact with real lives. Tom and Stuart have grounds for believing Jackie's account; others who have taken up the story freely acknowledge that they do not know her, but are prepared to condemn the alleged attacker, sometimes in direct and offensive language.
To further explore the debate, have a look at some of the comments on Jackie's post (79 to date), read some of the follow up posts, do a Technorati search, and bear in my mind that as I write, the picture on Flickr of "The loser who assaulted me today" has been viewed 3,964 times.
(Andrea Weckerle posts here on The slippery slope of citizen journalism...).