Over The Line? p.18

By: DOROTHY GIOBBE A REPORTER FOR the New York Post was arrested and charged with multiple counts after she allegedly posed as a relative of one of the passengers of fatal TWA Flight 800, authorities said.
Post reporter Tonice Sgrignoli was arrested on July 23 at a hotel at Kennedy Airport, where the families of the crash victims were staying. She was charged with criminal impersonation, criminal trespass, petty larceny and possession of stolen property.
Police said Sgrignoli claimed to be a cousin of a passenger on the flight and managed to obtain an orange pin that was given to family members in the aftermath of the crash. The pin is used to identify and admit family members to memorial events and information briefings.
Sgrignoli donned the pin and assumed the false identity, police said, in order to gain access to weekend prayer services from which the public and press were barred.
Also, she crossed security checkpoints that were set up to insulate the families from the crush of reporters.
In a statement, George Marlin, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, condemned Sgrignoli's tactics as "irresponsible to the extreme."
"Invading the privacy of people who have suffered so terribly is repugnant and violates the most basic standards of ethics," he said.
"The Port Authority will do everything possible to see that this case, and any other attempts to violate the privacy of grief-stricken people, is prosecuted to the full extent of the law."
Post editor Ken Chandler offered a tepid defense of his reporter ? without saying whether the newspaper endorsed Sgrignoli's reporting methods or whether she would be reprimanded.
"We believe that our coverage of the crash ? of which Tonice Sgrignoli has been a part ? has been sensitive to the plight of the families," he said in a statement.
"The Post apologizes to all concerned if there was any inappropriate behavior."
Sgrignoli said she had "no comment" on the incident.
If the allegations against Sgrignoli are true, others observed, there was without question a breach of fundamental journalism ethics and standards.
Reginald Denny, immediate past president of the Society of Professional Journalists, said, "If she did not have the permission of the families to be there and she was posing as a family member, she was clearly crossing the line of ethical conduct.
"You cannot claim to be a family member when you're not.
"If she represented herself as one of the family members and she wasn't, there's no question she was violating an ethical tenet."
Stuart likened the situation to "the same way that we don't want police officers, or spies, or police investigators posing as journalists."
The matter has been referred to the Queens District Attorney, according to the Port Authority statement.
The Post published a one-column story on its reporter's arrest, intermingled with its crash coverage.

DATE: Sat 17-Aug-1996
PUBLICATION: Editor & Publisher
CATEGORY: Correction
SUBJECT: Correction
AUTHOR: Editorial Staff


correction SPJ reginald stuart


Correction p.9

AStory, "Over The Line?" (E&P, Aug. 3, p. 18), incorrectly named the past president of the Society of Professional Journalists. He is Reginald Stuart.


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