Since I last posted my case study, I had the opportunity to present my findings to the class and engage in a stimulating discussion which produced an interesting question. After disclosing Maria Henson and the Herald-Leader‘s decision to give the sources an ‘escape clause’ of sorts before the articles were published, someone in class raised the question of what would have happened if one of the sources had actually used that tool: would they have killed the whole story, just eliminated that one source’s account, or perhaps kept it in under an anonymous title? After our class discussion I emailed Henson asking that exact query and here is her response (for anyone interested):
The answer to your question is I don’t know where such a discussion would have led the editors and me. My guess is we would have written an editorial on deadline unrelated to the series and substituted it on the editorial page. One thing is certain: if a woman to be featured by name called us afraid of having her account in the newspaper as late as the day before publication, we were ready to speak with her to understand and address her fears as best we could.
Something to think about!