“The fact is that by releasing names only, you’re getting a lot of false positives. You’re implicating people who may be completely innocent and simply share the same or similar names with people charged, and that’s a real harm,” Schutz told the AP.
In southern Maine, two TV stations, one daily newspaper and a weekly newspaper published the list. Several others, including newspapers in Maine’s three largest cities, withheld the names.
Roy Peter Clark, senior scholar at the Poynter Institute, a Florida-based journalism think tank, said that just because a name becomes public doesn’t mean news organizations have to race to publish it.
“What journalistic purpose is served by publishing the name, and how do you balance that against the harm that may be done to these people, their families, their children?”
Clark said the situation would be different if the name of a public figure appeared.
“If the police chief is on the list, if the school superintendent on the list, I would approach those people directly and try to determine whether their actions are not just a personal moral failure but climb to the level of social, public hypocrisy,” he said.
The Kennebunk Police Department plans to release the names of johns who’ve received summonses on a bi-weekly activity log, meaning the disclosure of names could continue until the end of the year. The next batch is due to be released Oct. 26.
As a former law enforcement officer, Main said releasing the names helps hold suspects accountable for their misdeeds. But, he added, other information should be released as well to protect those whose only connection to the case is having a common name.
“I don’t want to see other people going through the same thing that I’ve been through,” he said.