Reader Dana recently wrote Readers’ Representative Jamie Gold regarding the paper’s decision to release the name of an undercover LAPD officer, despite the fact that LAPD had asked for his name to be withheld. I discussed this in a post, here. Dana first mentioned this e-mail in a comment, here. Here is Dana’s full e-mail:
To whom it may concern:
Regarding the LAPD officer injured as he was hit by a car during a drug probe in Boyle Heights on Tuesday, I would like to know why the L.A. Times named the officer publicly when it was clear he was an undercover officer?
Your article states that the LAPD did not release his name due to his position and that ‘officials’ did. Who are these officials? And who do you think you people on Spring Street are to ‘choose’ to reveal his identity, thereby possibly putting he and his family in jeopardy? What benefit did the officer, his family, or the public derive from having this information made public?
You owe the public an explanation for this decision and disclosure because if the LAPD felt it prudent and wise to not release his name, who are you to override that and determine otherwise?
Dana [last name redacted]
Jamie Gold responded with an explanation that, if true (and I assume it is) is pretty good:
Thank you for writing, Ms. [redacted]. As it happens, the officer’s name was released publicly by the mayor, with LAPD officials present, at a news conference at the hospital. That announcement was carried live by the various L.A. television and radio outlets.
Late that afternoon, the department asked the press not to use the name — some seven hours after it had been announced by department and city officials and released on the airwaves.
It’s also worth noting that [officer’s name redacted] fired his weapon at the suspect — which means that, under California law, the police agency is required to disclose his identity. (After shootings involving SIS — a secretive unit formed to coordinate surveillance against criminal suspects — officials routine[ly] identify their members when they are involved in a shooting.)
Reporters didn’t not [sic] release any physical description or images of him at the scene, in any case.
I hope this addresses your concerns — and now I have a question for you: The readers’ representative office will next week begin publishing an online forum that will explore a number of issues that readers raise. It will be a page at latimes.com, featuring reader questions and editors’ responses. Because your question touches on an issue that is no doubt of interest to many readers and comes up now and again, would you allow this office to publish your question? I will print only the question and your name — much as is done with letters to the editor (no e-mail address).
Thank you for your consideration. And thank you again for taking the time to raise this point.
p.s. Apologies if I have the gender wrong by addressing you as “Ms” [redacted]. That happens with my name as well. (For the record, I’m a “Ms.”) (though you can call me Jamie…)
I have two reactions.
First, as I indicated above, I think the paper has a pretty good argument here. The phrase “the cat was out of the bag” comes to mind. Arguably, the paper did further damage by printing it in the paper — even publishing the officer’s name on the front-page, in a “teaser’ summary of stories inside the paper. But it’s hard to argue that the paper’s deed was all that dastardly, given that local TV stations had apparently broadcast this undercover officer’s name all over Los Angeles.
Second, I have a rather disappointed reaction about the new “Readers’ Representative blog.” When I first heard about this “blog,” I thought that it was going to be just that: a blog, with all the interactivity that word promises. It’s now sounding less like a blog, where readers can talk back and demand answers on topic they believe important — and more like a “forum” where the “Readers’ Representative” cherry-picks certain questions that she doesn’t mind answering. It’s sadly fitting that, apparently, she wants one of the first questions to touch on a topic where readers thought the paper had acted badly — but in reality, maybe it didn’t!
The paper is misunderstood, dontcha see.
I’ll still wait to see what actually develops. But my vision of a hard-hitting, truly interactive blog is looking like it may not become a reality.