Cleveland Gang-Rape Coverage: Controversy Doesn't Die

Categories: Crime

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A "clusterfuck of fail"?
The heat over media coverage of the Cleveland gang-rape doesn't show much signs of slacking, as critics question whether stories in The New York Times and Houston Chronicle displayed a "blame the victim" tone.

A round-up of the latest (We've asked Chronicle editor Jeff Cohen for reaction to the criticism; we'll update with any response See update):

The Times responded to the criticism, in a way. A spokesperson said the controversial views were those of residents, not the reporter: "We are very aware of and sensitive to the concerns that arise in reporting about sexual assault," she said. "This story is still developing and there is much to be learned about how something so horrific could have occurred."

The Houston Chronicle brought out boringly earnest, rarely surprising Lisa Falkenberg for a front-page column telling readers that raping 11-year-olds is bad.

Slate weighed in, didn't mention the Chron.

ABC News had a lengthy take on the incident.

And a feminist blog called Chron reporter Cindy Horswell's CNN appearance "a clusterfuck of fail."

Update: Here's Jeff Cohen's take:

People who criticize us for reporting are criticizing the messengers not the speakers. This is a horrific, tragic story. We always edit with care but have been doubly sensitive with regard to anything out of Cleveland. I guess I'd point you to today's Page One column by Lisa Falkenberg. She summed up our feelings quite well.

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15 comments
Jojoie
Jojoie

Hey, Rich, check this out: an impartial analysis of the New York Times and Houston Chronicle stories in which the Times is lambasted and the Chron is praised. Check out the Romenesko blog on Poynter's website.

regent032
regent032

I'm not usually one to point out any left wing media crap. I hate Fox News. I have Media Matters bookmarked on my computer, but I have to admit, the issue in Cleveland demonstrates the "liberal bias" in the media better than anything Andrew Breitbart could post. The facts are that this was an 11 year old girl. 11 years old. I'll repeat that. She was 11. That's the average age of a 6th grader. These were men who ranged in age from middle school to mid 20's. There is little doubt about the facts. These geniuses recorded it on their cell phones and sent the video around to friends. Besides the very young minors, the rest of these men, beyond a doubt, should have known better. Two things are keeping the Chronicle or any other mainstream media outlet from labeling these men as vicious pedophile rapist. One is the color of their skin and the other is the fact it was committed in a small southern town. The Chronicle, the New York Times, CNN, all of them are doing everything they can to not appear to be racist. Trying not to offend African American readers or viewers. Past discrimination and past wrongs committed by whites against the African American community do not excuse this act. Racism has nothing to do with this case. Black, white, Asian, Hispanic, it doesn't matter the skin color or religion of these men. The facts are the facts. They raped an 11 year old girl. 11 years old. Not 12, not even a teenager, she was 11 and they recorded the rape on their cell phones. They have their faces, they have their voices, they raped a child.

Guest
Guest

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Debutante33
Debutante33

Falkenberg's writing and analysis strikes me as that of a high-school journalism student.

RW
RW

I wrote a letter to the writer of the article in the Chron yesterday morning. I pointed out that, while probably unintentinal, a lot of the language did lay blame on the victim, citing the paragraphs Brittnie quoted early on in these comments. I got a really brief response, but I'm sure that they've been a storm of complaints. The response I got is as follows:

This article was a follow-up to numerous other reports about the arrestsas they were made. In the earlier stories, we named the 13 charged whowere over seventeen and listed their backgrounds, etc. The other fourwere juveniles and their names were not released but we noted theirschool grades, etc. (check it out on the Houston Chronicle web site)Also, the article clearly states that there is no excuse for assaultinga child as anyone under age 14 cannot consent. Hope this clarifiesthings for you. Cindy Horswell

Nostradomus
Nostradomus

I hope that video goes viral. I'd beat off to it.

Brittanie Shey
Brittanie Shey

I don't fall for the Chron's "we were only reporting what sources said" line. The Chron reporter was the one who delved into the victim's online profile, commented that she wrote about sex while at other times came off sounding like a little girl.

Which, as they said on Jezebel, duh. 11 years old. She *is* a little girl.

Gaaston
Gaaston

Chron as a whole = an unsurprising snooze. The only controversy they bring to life is through their ham-handed mistakes like this one.

brookey42
brookey42

Wow Cindy-- sounds like she was googling all the CNN reporter's questions and then stammering through what she was reading. I read one article about this yesterday and I could have given more informed answers. Just sayin'

Klevenhag
Klevenhag

Long post. Short point. Obviously missed.

Bill
Bill

Don't insult the high school journalists.

Wyatt
Wyatt

How exciting, a little taste of 4Chan in our sleepy corner of the internet

Sarah Rufca
Sarah Rufca

agreed. this is not a "just-the-facts-ma'am" story and pretending that reporters don't make decisions about tone and substance is ridiculous.

Brittanie Shey
Brittanie Shey

On her Facebook page, the 11-year-old tells whomever she befriends that she's aware people have probably heard about her, but she doesn't care what they think.

"If you dislike me, deal with it," she wrote.

Sometimes she comes across like a little girl, such as when she talks of her special talent for making "weird sound effects" and "running in circles" to overcome nervousness.

But she also makes flamboyant statements about drinking, smoking and sex. Yet her vulnerability pokes through the tough veneer as she tells of "being hurt many times," where she "settled for less" and "let people take advantage" and "walk all over" her. She vows to learn from her mistakes.

From here. Now, are those really pertinent details to the story?

eudemonist
eudemonist

LOLWUT? /b/tards fap, not "beat off." GTFO, newfig.

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