The Ethics of Posting Video of a Fight on Our Web Site

Monday, 2 Aug 2010, 7:56:00 AM

Staff Editorial

In the last couple of weeks, Oscar de la Torre was accused of felony child endangerment by the Santa Monica Police Department for failing to intervene in a reasonable time and instead acting as a referee to a fight that occurred on March 16 between two Santa Monica High School male students [see Police Investigation of School Board Member to be Reviewed].

We at the Santa Monica Mirror reported this story and its subsequent updates, because de la Torre is a Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education member and executive director of the Pico Youth and Family Center. We also posted the video of this fight on our web site. The video was of low quality, captured by an observer using a cellular phone camera. SMPD used the footage as a major component of its four-month investigation into this matter.

It was shown at de la Torreā€™s press conference. The video is extremely violent in nature, as it features two minors fighting each other. De la Torre appears to be the only adult at this incident, which is a large part of the charges laid against him.

Posting this video has prompted some concern from community members, so we would like to address some of those concerns.

But first of all, we would like to apologize for inadvertently misleading those of you that had seen the version of this video that we originally posted, as it had the first 15 seconds omitted. We felt it best to not show the video in its entirety because of its violent nature. We had thought de la Torre was not in that portion and this small segment was irrelevant, but we were wrong. It was pointed out to us that de la Torre can bee seen in the background of these first 15 seconds, standing there observing the fight. Our video editor had missed this, so we apologize, especially if this omission misinformed or caused a false perception of this already-complex issue.

A more important question is why we chose to post the video at all. We have heard complaints that because the video contains minors (fighting) and we do not have the parents consent to post this video, we should not have posted it.

The question is not a legal one, as the minors are not named and their faces are not discernable in the low-content video. At the time of publication, the video we feature on our web site has omitted segments of the minors fighting, because de la Torre is not visible during these portions. The important fact is that this fight was captured on public property, which is in the public arena and has no expected privacy. Therefore, whether to post it or not is only an ethical question.

Because Oscar de la Torre is a youth leader and a school board member, that makes him a very important public figure whose actions are being called into question. The police attest one perspective, while de la Torre and his supporters attest another. Instead of having the public hear two different interpretations of what can be discerned from a video, we thought is would be best to just let the public draw their own conclusions from viewing it themselves.

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