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JAMA 100 Years Ago
February 28, 2007

SENSATIONALISM AND CRIMINAL SUGGESTION.

Author Affiliations
 

JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Assistant Editor.

JAMA. 2007;297(8):898. doi:10.1001/jama.297.8.898

There has been no little discussion in the last few days as to the advisability of printing the details of criminal trials; marked differences of opinion have arisen as to whether such publication is likely to do good or harm. A distinguished body of clergymen went so far as to announce publicly that they thought the detailed publication of the proceedings of a recent notorious murder trial were apt to be beneficial rather than harmful to the community, because they taught the lesson that “the wages of sin is death.” The old idea that ignorance means innocence—an idea so long harbored by many well-meaning persons—is doubtless responsible for not a little evil. When young folks are kept too sedulously from knowledge which they must have some time or other, and which will come to them pruriently, if not given directly and candidly, the result is sure to be harmful. Whether or not this important principle applies to such information as is obtained from the sensational details of a murder trial involving the worst kind of sexual problems, however, is extremely doubtful.

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