Blogs » Your Advocate: an editor's blog » Video of Ratcliff's father was a mistake


Some viewers criticized our video interview of Michael Ratcliff's father on the day his son was being indicted. Unfortunately, I think they were right.

As print journalists, we're new to the video world, and we made a misstep here. Our reporter and photographer went to the house looking for Michael Ratcliff, not his father. We wanted to confirm he had been fired and was about to be arrested.

When Ratcliff's father opened the door, our reporter asked for his son. We didn't want to be the one to break the news about his son's arrest to him and regret doing so. We went ahead and talked with the father because that's what print journalists are trained to do -- gather the facts. We thought the father's comments would add provide viewers a human side to a man being accused of one of the most unspeakable crimes in our society.

We reconsidered as we saw how powerfully the video affected people. We have pulled the video from our Web site. Clearly, we have new ethical issues to consider as we continue into the world of video.

What viewers didn't see on the video is the compassion our reporter and photographer showed to the father at the end of the conversation. Our reporter asked whether he could do anything for him and whether he had someone nearby for support. Our photographer said he was praying for him.

We try to minimize the harm caused by our reporting. We can never eliminate harm because news stories often are about misfortune of some sort. Ratcliff's father would have learned the sad news from somewhere. We're sorry it was from us.