Wick Communications

Woody and Mia and you

In Ethics on February 13, 2014 at 3:35 pm

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What’s your favorite Woody Allen movie? Before you answer, you should know: when I was seven years old, Woody Allen took me by the hand and led me into a dim, closet-like attic on the second floor of our house. He told me to lay on my stomach and play with my brother’s electric train set. Then he sexually assaulted me…

So begins a very disturbing and very well crafted letter published on a New York Times blog earlier this month. It is a retelling of a 20-year-old accusation, that filmmaker Woody Allen molested Dylan Farrow, who was then his very young adopted daughter. It was followed by an equally passionate refutation of the charges by Allen himself, also in the New York Times.

The question for Kicker readers: Does all this belong in any newspaper?

Taking a cue from Farrow, before you answer, know that Allen has been formally cleared of these charges. Experts at Yale-New Haven Hospital said at the time that, after extensive interviews, they were of the opinion that no such abuse occurred. Prosecutors did not bring charges. That said, Farrow is convincing and specific. You are not alone if you think she couldn’t have made up something as chilling as that attic scene.

Let’s start with the New York Times. Farrow’s piece was published in conjunction with a column by award-winning columnist Nicholas Kristof, who has long been a champion for abused children. The news peg was the Golden Globe Awards, which had just bestowed upon Allen a lifetime achievement award. The charges were salacious and unproven but it also timely, provocative and drew huge readership. Having published that side of the story, the newspaper was almost honor bound to publish Allen’s response. I thought the paper did a fair job of laying out the facts and allowing a fairly respectful back and forth between the principals as well as thousands of comments online. …

But that doesn’t mean that we should all rush to do something similar. I don’t think I would dream of printing letters like that if the letter writers didn’t have famous names. Forget, for a moment, the legal liability of making public the private lives of people in your community. There is little stigma worse than being branded a child molester. I try to be very careful with that one. In general, I think I would not print the name of an accused, unless it becomes common knowledge through other media reports or there is another compelling reason: The accused is a youth leader, a teacher or someone in the public eye. I would also err on the side of protecting any minor children caught up in a dispute like this.

Mia and Woody are almost unique. I wouldn’t apply the same rules to every Tom, Dick and Harry.

Clay

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