Thursday, April 12, 2007

A sad and sorry situation

What a busy week in the journalism world. And what a sad and sorry situation that happened down in Durham, North Carolina. The Duke Lacrosse case will have a long lasting impact, and a lot of the problems with this case can be placed squarely on the shoulders of the media.

First, the initial condemnation and overreaction of the players was horrible. The media jumped to conclusions, forgot the presumption of innocence and for that matter so did the faculty of Duke.

But that's not what I want to focus on.

The first mistakes made by the media in this case have been seriously compounded by the way two particular media outlets have acted since the North Carolina Attorney General dropped the charges.

As it so happens both are owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. The New York Post, of which I am a subscriber and regular reader, ran a huge picture of the accuser/stripper in the Duke case. The picture was on the cover. The stories ran on pages 4,5 and the Op/Ed pages.

What a horrible message to send to women who are wary about reporting a rape. If it so happens that your accusations aren't upheld, you will be publicly scorned by a major newspaper. This was DISGUSTING. I have never held the Post to the same journalistic standards of other newspapers, it is basically a rag. This was a new low.

Throughout each and every story, the young men are championed as innocent souls whose lives have been ruined by this woman. That is flat out false. In fact, Colin Finnerty was charged for simple assault in Washington D.C. There is no mention of this anywhere in the Post.

Nobody knows what really happened that night in Durham. And I don't really believe these guys raped that woman. But something awful surely happened. Let us not glorify anybody in this situation. And whatever this woman is going through, she will have to live with it for the rest of her life.

Fox News Channel also ran pictures of the accuser during its episode of the O'Reilly Factor. Substituting for the King of the cheap political point was Michelle Malkin. Now there is no way anybody could consider Malkin a "journalist". She writes an incindiary, right wing column, and she's said some things that could fall into the Imus category.

So her guest on the program was a man named Malik Shabazz of the New Black Panther Party (whatever that is). They proceed to get in a screaming match where they call each other prostitutes. While this is all going on the picture of the Duke accuser is being flashed across the screen.

What a horrible visual. Malkin thought she was vindicating the lacrosse players by conducting herself like this? Unbelievable.

There are so many tragedies associated with this case. The media has been wrong at almost every turn. And this final chapter might have the worst affect of all.

The chilling affect of publishing this woman's name and splashing her picture across the front pages of a New York tabloid could be devastating. Did the big-wigs at News Corp. even think about their responsibility to the public? I can't imagine how hard it is for someone to report a sexual assault, but I know the fear of public ridiucle is real and devastating. The New York Post and Fox News and ANY publication that runs this woman's picture should be ashamed.

As I said before, these charges may have been false, and the accuser will have to live with that. But why make life so much harder for the women who have to report real crimes?


At Thursday, April 12, 2007, Blogger AG said...

Here's what I honestly don't understand. So many of these news organizations claim they have this law to protect rape victims and children. They "say" they have this, but what is it really based on. If the case happens to be one of the biggest in the country... so this time we are not making any promises. I agree that the woman's name shouldn't have been released. I can honestly I was shocked yesterday when I actually saw her picture on the news. My jaw dropped.

I agree that if news organizations make the statement they will not publish the names of possible rape victims and children... then don't... no matter how much publicity the case gets.

At Thursday, April 12, 2007, Blogger AJS said...

I agree with the premise of the first half of your argument; if you're not going to publish the name of an alleged victim of sexual assault, then don't publish it the instant that person is no longer considered by the legal system to be an alleged victim. That's simply absurd.

But I don't agree with the overall tenor of the argument, which seems to indicate that the names of sexual assault victims should not be published. Indeed, the absurdity of all of a sudden releasing a name after the case is dropped points to the larger silliness of witholding names altogether. As I commented on another post here, there really seems to be no good reason to do this.

I remember watching CNN and seeing an Amber Alert for this missing girl in Florida, and they told us her name. Then, when she was found and there was reported sexual abuse, they stopped mentioning her name. These two events happened within a number of minutes of each other, by the way. What's the point of having such a blind cut-and-dry policy? If we just gave names from the start, then we could provide the information in a way that adds to newsworthiness to the story and gives readers and viewers a fuller picture of the event. But the mainstream press' current aversion to naming alleged victims only leads to ugly incidents like this one when the charges are dropped.

At Friday, April 13, 2007, Blogger ml said...

Great post. I especially like your point that no one should glorify these boys simply because the charges were dropped. There is no doubt that something horrible happened that night. Justice isn't always served, just look at OJ.

At Sunday, April 15, 2007, Blogger GN said...

The media in this case went from one extreme to the other, because extremes provide for much better headlines. A sad and sorry situation indeed.


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