Interesting story about an investigation into a jail house interview with Michael Devlin. He is accused of kidnapping 13-year-old Ben Ownby just after the boy got off a school bus Jan. 8 in Missouri. Police found Ben and Shawn Hornbeck at Devlin’s apartment on Jan. 12. Shawn, now 15, had been missing since 2002.
Apparently, no media was allowed to interview him. But a reporter, who did the story for the NY Post, slipped in, signing herself in as a friend, according to Devlin’s lawyer and police. I was interested in the ‘expert’s’ opinion that the reporter damaged the credibility of journalism by the subterfuge.
I did one jail house interview. And I tried to go the media designated route, but they kept sending me to a line where you could only sign up as friend or family. After a few hours arguing, the woman who arranged the times for the county jail put me down as friend. I immediately identified myself as a journalist to the inmate before I talked to him, so I believe I was on the right side of the ethical standard.
We are not bound by what lawyers or police say when we pursue a story as long as we don’t break any laws. As I said about our public records audit, there are rare times when not identifying yourself is the only way you can get information. But I’m not as quick to condemn this reporter. This story is of great public interest, partially by the families own hand after the fact. I don’t know the protocal in Missouri. But if the reporter identified herself to Devlin as a reporter, before she interviewed, good job, I say.