On November 25, Denver TV stations prominently identified Javeon Brown when the Denver Police Department sent out an alert about the thirteen-year-old in relation to a Thanksgiving Day triple shooting near Manual High School. The outlets stopped doing so the following day, after Brown's arrest, because he has not been charged as an adult for the crime. However, their reports continue to link to his name, and at this writing, a CBS4 item that scrubbed his moniker from its text sports a video that includes it.
These examples illustrate the difficulty of trying to retrace journalistic steps in the Internet age.
On November 23, according to the Denver Police Department, officers responded to Manual, at 1700 East 28th Avenue, on a report of a shooting. Upon their arrival, they discovered that three occupants of a parked vehicle had been injured by gunfire; one person had reportedly been shot in the arm, a second in the leg and a third in several bodily locations. Multiple suspects were sought, but on the 25th, the DPD tweeted the name and photos of Brown, who was born in May 2004 and is said to stand four feet, ten inches tall and weigh 95 pounds.
"He should be considered armed and dangerous," the DPD release stressed.
This information was promptly shared by 9News, Denver7, Fox31/CW2 and CBS4 — but after Denver police tweeted at 3:40 p.m. on the 26th that Brown had been fitted for cuffs, all four broadcasters pivoted. The 9News item now includes an editor's note that reads: "9News is no longer using the suspect's name or photo since he is now in custody and has not been charged as an adult." The Fox31/CW2 item took a similar tack in this addendum: "We previously showed the name and picture of the suspect because Denver police released it and considered him armed and dangerous. Because the suspect is a minor, we will no longer be showing the suspect's name or photo." Denver7's piece now simply states that the station "is not identifying" Brown.
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And CBS4? That outlet's current article refers to Brown generically as a thirteen-year-old, but the tech crew failed to swap out the video clip that used his name — though we suspect someone will get on that task soon.
The Denver Post took a different tack. After Brown was captured, the paper continued to use his name and photo despite his age — and in 2017, this approach makes sense. After all, the Denver police tweets remain online, as do Facebook offerings on plenty of pages, including the Metro Denver Crime Stoppers page. And searching for Javeon Brown by name immediately produces links to TV coverage — such as this brief from a Fox affiliate in Chicago.
Oh, yeah: The Denver TV reports that no longer mention Brown's handle come up in search results, too.
The philosophy of waiting to name juvenile suspects until they're charged as adults remains a good one under most circumstances. But once a name is out, it's out, and pretending otherwise gives news consumers one more reason not to trust the media.