Written By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
Based upon an article written previously about Lashon HaRah and the media, and after consultation with leading Poskim, the VINNEWS policy about posting controversial articles is as follows:
REASON ONE ARTICLES: DANGER TO THE COMMUNITY
It is VIN’s halachic position that dangers to the community should be reported upon by the Jewish media. This is whether the danger is:
- a charlatan who purposefully steals money from others
- a predator
- a dangerous practice that undermines the public health or well-being.
Generally speaking, the term “alleged” will be employed. Stories that fit into this category will be called, for the purposes of this opinion paper, a “Reason One Article.”
NOT NECESSARILY TRUE
The reader should note that just because it appears on VINNEWS, does not necessarily mean that the person is guilty – per se. It is just that it has risen to the level of something to be concerned about. VINNEWS does not have the resources to fully investigate issues to the level that is necessary to make a determination of guilt or innocence.
REASON TWO ARTICLES: L’MAAN YISHME’U V’YEAR’U
There is another second and indirect element as well. As a general rule, both those who engage in fraud, as well as predators, as well as those who undermine the public welfare, will offend repeatedly if there are no consequences and repercussions to what they have done. In order to prevent this, there is an element of l’maan yishme’u v’yera’u to reporting upon it. For the purposes of this opinion paper, this will be termed a “Reason Two Article.” Yet, this second and indirect element must be carefully balanced with another Torah ideal. The other Torah ideal is that we do not want to be a source of Chillul Shaim Shamayim.
NOT BEING THE FIRST
It is VIN’s general policy (with some exceptions) that these two contradictory ideals be adumbrated by not being the first to report it, and not being the first to report it after an obscure news source has reported upon it either. Once the topic has gone viral or semi-viral, however, the second, indirect ideal does kick in. How we define viral or semi-viral is if JTA or a major website picks it up. ( As far as a YouTube video goes, so far our definition of viral is over 1200 hits.)
The exceptions to this general policy of not being the first are when there is a very clear and present danger to the community. Once that danger has been removed, however, it is VINNEWS’s policy to remove the content.
REASONS FOR POSTING REASON TWO ARTICLES
There are a number of reasons for this policy.
One such reason is that the leniency of apei tlata according to the Rambam would indicate that there is no lashon hara here, so technically, we can be the second to report. Another reason is that there will often be collateral damage to family members if it is reported first. Thus, this may present another aspect of contradicting values. Does the value of l’maan yishm’u v’yirau outweigh the value of preventing the collateral damage to others?
Mere allegations that do not have what is termed “raglayim ladavar” will not be reported upon – even if a lawsuit is filed. If, however, the complaint or lawsuit rings true – then it can be reported. Onviously, this can be a very subjective area.
Another issue is that of to’eles. Every article has to have a genuine to’eles when being reported. One such to’eles, believe it or not, is to help victims achieve a sense of closure. It is a little known fact, but many victims of molestation have life-long issues of psychological damage –even leading to ideating suicide, rachmana litzlan. On the other hand, there is also collateral damage to family members that can occur. These issues are thus decided on a case by case basis.
There will be times that we will make mistakes. Everyone is human. These are the guidelines that VINNEWS follows. We are open to respectful discussion about these things.
VINNEWS COMMENTS POLICY
It is VINNEWS policy not to allow any derogatory statements said about others in the comments section, whether it be about people mentioned in the story commented upon or whether it be on a commentator to the story. This is whether it would fall under the rubric of lashon hara or not.
It is also VINNEWS policy not to allow a comment that could constitute a Chillul Hashem.
VINNEWS would like to encourage meaningful thought and expression and would also exclude childish banter from comments as well.
On the other hand, if the comment is about a politician or his policies who is an elected representative of constituents and is not bichlal amisecha, VIN recognizes freedom of thought and expression, and would allow a comment as long as it is not deemed a Chillul Hashem.