I fell down an internet hole this morning tracing all the nuances of a little tidbit Poynter published that begins, "A woman interviewed by former Columbia professor Bruce Porter has sued him, the Columbia Journalism Review and a documentary filmmaker." Jesus H. Christ, does this story make longtime reporter and Columbia Journalism School professor Porter look like a colossal dickhead.
First, he published a cover story in Newsweek in 1967, an interview with a hippie teen runaway, after promising her anonymity—but then, for no apparently logical reason, he printed her real first name and her hometown, saying later that his editor just "liked the sound of" her first name, and that the fact that she'd be easily identifiable to her parents if he also named the town she was from was "something I hadn't bothered to consider." Really?! She was not happy about being identified, and he heard she was unhappy, and he was heartbroken.
This all caused a 40-year-long chain reaction of events, including the girl's sad phone call to her mother (warning her about the Newsweek article) being played on the radio, Porter telling her story over and over down through the years as a cautionary tale to his journalism students, and then his decision a couple of years ago to track her down so he could apologize—and deciding to bring a documentary filmmaker along on his quest to apologize to her for publicizing her identity. Obviously, over the course of finding her and documenting his finding her, he manages to further publicize her identity, get a story about her printed in her hometown newspaper—he also misleads a reporter for that paper—and he writes a new story about the apology quest without telling her. (Also, he managed to misspell her last name in the new story on her. CLASSY.)