‘John’ Commits Suicide After Name is Published
BROCKTON, Mass. (AP) _ The local newspaper, The Enterprise, says it will continue to publish names of arrested prostitutes and their customers in spite of the suicide of one customer.
A 47-year-old man from a nearby town died Friday, apparently of carbon monoxide poisoning in his car in his garage, after a report linking him with a prostitute was published in the newspaper.
Police said the man left a suicide note that did not mention he had been arrested with a prostitute and had been convicted of sexual misconduct for a fee and fined $155 three days earlier.
The Enterprise held to its policy of not naming suicides who kill themselves in private.
The newspaper has always published names of anyone arrested in the city, except for routine traffic infractions, Paul Salters, night city editor at The Enterprise, said Thursday.
″Everyone who gets arrested, gets his name in the paper,″ Salters said.
The problem of prostitution is particularly troubling, and deserves attention, he said.
″The editors of this newspaper believe that the situation is out of hand on the streets,″ Salters said. ″These people come out like sea gulls at a town dump at night. It’s just everywhere. It is so bad, residents of the city try to avoid driving through the downtown at night.″
Executive editor Bruce Smith said the practice of publishing names of customers started earlier this month after Police Chief Robert J. DiCarli announced a crackdown and asked the newspaper to help by listing the names and addresses of both prostitutes and their customers.
″I don’t think there has been any direct link between the fact that his name was published and the suicide,″ he said.
Detective Arthur McClaren said police and the newspaper were ″getting hassled″ on radio and television talk shows.
″People are saying, ‘His name was put in the paper. That’s why he committed suicide.’ But the girls’ names have always gone in. Why not print the males’ and the girls’?″
Smith said he thinks The Enterprise is performing a public service that has helped cut down on solicitation in the city of about 97,000 residents.
″Other cities have the same problem, and they have crackdowns,″ said George R. Cataldo, assistant to Mayor Carl Pitaro.
″Here, business people were complaining. They felt prostitution was taking business away from the downtown area. As far as putting the names of johns and the girls in the paper, it’s embarrassing in one respect, but it has been a deterrent.″
Louis Hodges, director of Society and the Professions, an ethics program at Washington and Lee University, said the media should not collaborate with police and the names should not be published.
″I don’t think it is right for a newspaper to agree to publish the names at the request of police,″ he said. ″You can get yourself locked in in ways that are wrong.
″Secondly, newspapers have no business inflicting additional harm. So the names ought not to be published at all, even upon conviction.″
William Kovach, curator of the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University, said: ″The fact that the police requested that names and addresses be published does not automatically make the newspaper a part of the police apparatus. ...
″The first question the editor must address is whether or not prostitution is so important in that community that people should be exposed to the notoriety,″ he said.