Letter from the editor: Regarding concerns over The Review’s front page story last week
A story printed in The Review last week, written by myself, seemed to generate a bit of controversy. More accurately, the story garnered more reaction than our stories normally get, and most of that reaction seemed to misinterpret the story’s intentions and content. While normally The Review’s policy is to allow the public to view our stories through whatever lens they see fit, the delicateness of this particular story and the visceral response it evoked from our audience, both in the comment section as well as a separate letter to the editor, warrant an official response.
Margaret DeFeo, who I believe is Paul DeFeo’s mother, contacted me over winter break to tell me that the charges against Paul had been dropped. She requested a story be written about the dropping of the charges, a story we would have written regardless of her request since the initial story of his arrest was so widely viewed on our site. That’s how we found out about the story; in fact, tips or information from third parties are how we find out about a significant amount of our stories. I venture to guess the same could be said about any other media organization.
I stand behind the reporting done on the story, and I believe the rest of the staff does as well. I knew getting in touch with the victim was going to be a difficult, nearly impossible, task, privacy laws being what they are, and justifiably so. The privacy of victims, a term notably used to describe the accuser in this case by DOJ Public Information Officer Carl Kanefsky even after the charges were dropped by the Attorney General, deserves to be protected.
Acting within those limitations, I believe the proper effort was made to dig up more information about the investigation and the victim via the Freedom of Information Act request that was filed to the Delaware Department of Justice. That request asked for “All relevant and eligible records related to the Paul DeFeo investigation and decision not to prosecute.” As mentioned in the article, it was promptly denied.
As is obvious, the decision to speak to DeFeo and not the accuser was not intentional or malicious—it was forced. To not speak to DeFeo for the story would not only be unprofessional, it would have been lazy and journalistically negligent. The Review did not exonerate DeFeo, nor did it convict him. It is not our responsibility or desire to do either.
I feel as if the facts of the story as they have been presented thus far were printed. If there is anything else to dispute, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
-Matt Butler, editor in chief