Sometimes, reporting is so bad, it doesn’t need comment. Still, I’ll add just a couple of thoughts of my own on this appalling story (in every sense of the word) from the New York Times.
A girl is raped by maybe a dozen or more assailants and “its just destroyed our community”, bleats one local…before going on to ask “where was the mother?”
Plenty of lovely details about how the 11-year-old victim could sometimes look and act older…even wore make-up and fashions “more appropriate to a 20-year-old.”
Why, obviously: she was asking for it!
I’ve seen this defended by several people, including journalists, as simply reporting facts. In this case, the facts in question are the responses and statements of the community. Sorry: I disagree.
Yes, that is, I wouldn’t disagree that the quotes are genuine and represent a real self-questioning within the community in question. But no: there is no need to do a piece that focuses so exclusively on these views (which are essentially nothing more than victim-blaming) without at least the decency to pick up the phone to a rape crisis centre and add a counter view.
Or, to put it another way, what’s to stop the story from running:
“Locals were yesterday wondering how these poor boys would live with themselves…
“In response, Ms X, a worker with the Hosuton rape crisis centre, slammed such views as blaming the victim and unacceptable in a civilised country. She said…”
There. Easy. Balance. And all for the cost of a phone call and a conversation.
Too, there’s the framing of the piece. It’s a curiosity piece, designed to poke under the community rocks. But it goes just that bit too far. Like: imagine a piece on the aftermath of the Third Reich that focused on the trauma that the guards at Auschwitz had gone thru. “A friend of the Hitler family told us today: “I can’t imagine what these poor boys went thru. All that death! How are they ever going to live with themselves.”
Have I come over all sarcastic? Yep. This piece isn’t badly written. Its not sloppy reporting: it is ill thought-out in terms of balance and what it does. I have problems in accepting that many stories can ever be “just news”. This is one such.
It should have been written: but it should have been written far better.
Meanwhile – and I hope no-one imagines for a moment I am trivialising the issue: here’s a track by French singer Jeanne Mas that touches on the issues in this story. Its about loss of power, fear, and ultimately, taking back power.
It makes me cry: it makes me angry – and ultimately, it makes me cheer.