In story of missing girls, an invasion of privacy

When two girls went missing overnight on Monday, public safety officials had little choice but to release their photographs and beg people on Facebook to repost.

It likely worked as within a short period of time, the girls were discovered in the Burnsville home of a sports coach.

The public safety officials brought the cone of silence down in a hurry after they were found, appropriately enough, but their pictures are still “out there,” and so are their names and so are the questions: What were these 13-year-old girls doing out on the street at night on a Monday night, why did they go with a 23-year-old-man, what is it they were texting with him that alarmed authorities, and why, according to a news release, did they not understand the “gravity” of the situation?

They may be victims, they’re young children, and now, unlike most young victims, their names and images are in the news.

“Why?” asks Mary Turck, the former editor of Twin Cities Daily Planet, on her blog.

The girls are not charged with anything. They are thirteen years old. They may be runaways, and they may be victims, but they are not criminals.

Here’s a quick round-up of who published what on Tuesday afternoon:

KSTP broadcast and put online the full names and photos of the girls. So did Minnesota Public Radio and Bring Me the News.

KMSP (Fox 9) published a photo of the arrested man and his name — and also published the girls’ names.

CBS/WCCO 4 published the arrested man’s photo and name, but not the girls’ names or photos.

KARE 11 and the Star Tribune published no names. See KARE 11’s after-story for solid reporting without an invasion of privacy. The Strib also had a good follow-up for concerned parents, with tips for monitoring social media.

Publishing their photos and names kills any hope of privacy. Thousands of people know all about their escapade, and also know their faces and sensitive personal details. A couple of clicks can lead to a street address. Publishing their names and photos makes them less safe, now and in the future.

This is not the way we protect our children.