Use sources who are emotionally involved with the perpetrator judiciously.
The perpetrator's grieving family and friends often try to explain the inexplicable, to excuse the inexcusable. In the 1999 Young case, relatives and coworkers described the perpetrator as "a good man, loving and caring... gentle, kind, wonderful." (Young case, Providence Journal, 3/26/99)
One reporter gave play to these reactions but qualified them in the same article by adding the perspective of a domestic violence expert. " 'Very often batterers are extremely skilled at putting a public image forward where people would not believe they could be violent at home,' said Deborah DeBare, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence." (Young case, Providence Journal, 3/26/99)
Avoid quoting distant acquaintances.
Eager for background, reporters often quote neighbors and distant acquaintances who actually know little about the perpetrator or victim. Lacking real information, they tend to reinforce popular myths about domestic violence murders as random unpredictable acts: " 'They seemed to be nice, you know,' said a next-door neighbor. 'And they seemed to get along as far as I could see.' " (Mailloux case, Providence Journal, 4/29/96)
Reporters use these sources even when they suggest their own lack of information. One report quotes two neighbors: "Said Julie Gull who lived across the hall, 'I never had a conversation with him.' Albert Chace, who lives below [the perpetrator] said, 'He's very nice to me. I don't know anything personal about him.' " (Robinson case, Providence Journal, 9/19/99)
Reporters should avoid positive character references from non-acquaintances.