The paper of record has come under fire for a story about the alleged gang rape of an 11-year-old girl by 18 young men in Cleveland, Texas. A feature on the gruesome tale notes the victim's clothes and makeup, and includes quotes from some local residents who seem to blame the victim while worrying about the well-being of the alleged attackers. The Times' coverage is being called "sloppy, slanted," and "pathetic." Is the Gray Lady to blame?
Yes, this is bad journalism: The Times piece is "sloppy journalism," says Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon. It focuses on what the 11-year-old victim "must have done to provoke" her assailants rather than "what her multiple assailants apparently did." That's "outrageous" and "sickening." The Times aspires to "balanced journalism," but with this story, the vast majority of the quotes offer an unbalanced, unsympathetic perspective.
"The New York Times' sloppy, slanted child rape story"
The Times seems to sympathize with the suspects: "It's hard to believe that anyone's first concern would be about how the men will live with what they did," says Margaret Hartmann at Jezebel. But the article includes a quote about how the alleged rapists will "have to live with this the rest of their lives." Who cares about them?
"Media blows it with pathetic gang rape coverage"
No, the Times accurately reflected the community's reaction: The story, and the controversial quotes, are simply portraying the community response to the crime, says Francisca Ortega at the Houston Chronicle. Journalists just report the facts, regardless of whether they agree or disagree. While I personally wouldn't blame the victim, it seems some in the community do, and that's what the story reflected. The Times merely quoted them. It didn't endorse their view. "This is the world we live in," and "we shouldn't sugarcoat the fact that this world exists."
"The appropriate place to rant about rape in a news story"