SN&R news article was deceptive

I received a letter this week from Jess Eagle of the Family Violence Appellate Project. The letter would have infuriated me even without all the recent news about the abuse women in our culture suffer. The November 2 article was headlined “Parental restraints.”

Here is an excerpt from the letter: Eric Nelson, quoted in the article, very recently lost a domestic violence restraining order appeal against his ex-wife. In the article, Nelson is described only as “a former police officer and a volunteer criminologist with UC Davis’ Department of Public Health Sciences,” indicating that his statements are professional opinions from someone with industry experience. But they are also the opinions of someone who had a restraining order issued against him—obviously affecting his opinion. Without this relevant context, readers might not be able to accurately discern Nelson’s credibility when he says “There isn’t an adult in California who couldn’t be given a domestic violence restraining order, and if you haven’t gotten one, the only reason is because your partner hasn’t taken you to the family court and said, ‘This guy was mean to me.’” and when he claims that “domestic violence restraining orders frequently get used ‘like a bludgeon.’”

Eagle is absolutely correct. She did not say this, but I will: By presenting a biased source as an objective authority, we violated our readers’ trust. A review of the article and various court documents reveal that other relevant facts were omitted. The article—which otherwise presents a balanced picture of the situation—has been updated. We are making changes in our newsroom to ensure nothing like this happens again.