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SPJ honors high school journalists who debunked false claims in Audrie Pott case

Cristina Curcelli, 17, Samuel Liu, 18, and
Sabrina Chen, journalists with the Saratoga
High School Falcon newspaper.

The Society of Professional Journalists has honored students at the Saratoga High School whose reporting disputed reports that semi-nude photos of Audrie Pott had gone “viral” before her suicide, according to KCBS and the Mercury News.

When the teen’s sexual assault case first broke in 2012, local and national media reported that photos of the half-naked, 15-year-old girl had been posted on Facebook, which contributed to her suicide.

The student journalists at Saratoga High’s Falcon newspaper decided to investigate those claims.

They interviewed Audrey’s friends on the condition of anonymity and found that only 10 people had seen the pictures and that they were never posted on social media.

The staff worked around the clock through that first weekend and into spring break, posting stories online with headlines saying “only 10 students” saw the photos, and “Pott case twisted to fit anti-cyberbullying agenda.”

SPJ honored the teenage reporters for both their reporting and for protecting their sources by defying a court subpoena from a lawyer in the case by invoking California’s Shield Law. (Photo credit: Karl Mondon, Bay Area News Group)

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