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Victims' Relatives Ask: Be Sensitive

4/13/2003 08:00:00 PM Eastern

Relatives of crime victims had a few choice words for news directors and reporters last week: Try a little sensitivity, would you?

On a panel during the RTNDA convention, David Smart, uncle of kidnap victim Elizabeth Smart; Carrie Lemack, president of Families of September 11; and Sandy Sharp, director of Families of Murder Victims, asked that the media look at the human consequences of their often aggressive reporting.

"How do you feel?" is often the one question considered the least sincere and the most offensive, they all agreed.

Smart said even seeming supporters have their own agendas. He said Mark Klaas, who has become a prominent victim's rights spokesman since the kidnapping-murder of his own daughter Polly, ingratiated himself with the Smart family but then was critical on the air, when the family rejected his suggestion that forensic artist Jeanne Boylan be brought in to aid the investigation. Later, Fox host Bill O'Reilly also questioned the family's reluctance to engage Boylan. Fox did not return calls for comment.

Smart had nothing but praise for another well-known victim's advocate: John Walsh—who also works for Fox.