More States con­sider ban on pub­lic release of 911 tapes on pri­vacy con­cerns

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS - BY DE­SIREE HUNTER

“ We strongly be­lieve that 911 record­ings should be pub­lic record be­cause they can re­flect on the per­for­mance of pub­lic agen­cies,” said Thomas Kent, stan­dards ed­i­tor of The As­so­ci­ated Press. “It cer­tainly can be hard to lis­ten to 911 record­ings, and we use them very spar­ingly on the air and on­line. Our de­ci­sion to use such record­ings de­pends pri­mar­ily on their rel­e­vance to im­por­tant news, not the at­mo­spher­ics.”

Cuil­lier, a pro­fes­sor at Ari­zona State Uni­ver­sity’s School of Jour­nal­ism, said the an­swer is bet­ter self-reg­u­la­tion by the me­dia.

“I see this all around the coun­try. There’ll be a me­dia out­let that maybe goes a lit­tle too far — pushes the bound­aries on some­thing — and peo­ple do not like that,” he said. “And then you’ll have de­mands that it be taken down, you’ll have a back­lash, you’ll have leg­is­la­tion that makes it all se­cret.”

WSPA, the Spar­tan­burg, S.C., TV sta­tion that aired Casey’s 911 call in 2008, apol­o­gized a day later and re­moved the record­ing from its Web site.

“That 911 call was me re­al­iz­ing my daugh­ter was dead,” Casey said. “I did not care to share that with the world and that pri­vate mo­ment of grief should never have been used to sell pa­pers, or up rat­ings.”

Bras­field cited one par­tic­u­larly up­set­ting ex­am­ple from Alabama in­volv­ing a call made by a boy whose grand­mother was be­ing mauled by a dog.

Gary Allen, ed­i­tor of an on­line mag­a­zine for dis­patch­ers, said new tech­nol­ogy makes it eas­ier than ever to splice and copy 911 calls. And cell­phone calls are more dra­matic and on-the-spot, mak­ing the au­dio ir­re­sistible.

Celebrity 911 calls have proved to be enor­mously pop­u­lar, as il­lus­trated re­cently by cases in­volv­ing Tiger Woods and Char­lie Sheen.

“In gen­eral, the is­sue has boiled down to the need for peo­ple to feel that they can call 911 at any time and their sit­u­a­tion won’t be splashed across the me­dia, ei­ther cre­at­ing em­bar­rass­ment or emo­tional harm,” said Allen, a for­mer dis­patcher for 20 years who now works with www.911dis­patch.com. “On the other side of that is the very le­git­i­mate and ob­vi­ous pub­lic con­cern that every­one in­volved in 911 is do­ing their job cor­rectly. I think it’s pretty clear that the pub­lic has a right to know what is hap­pen­ing in a com­mu­ni­ca­tion cen­tre.”

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