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When media coverage goes wrong

by Robin Della Corte March 26, 2013
When media coverage goes wrong

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CNN gained worldwide attention last week but for all the wrong reasons.

When Steubenville High School football players Trent Mays, 17, and Ma’lik Richmond, 16, were convicted last Sunday of raping and circulating an image of a severely intoxicated 16-year-old West Virginia girl, CNN took a very odd angle in reporting the story.

Mays was sentenced to a minimum of two years in a juvenile correctional facility while Richmond was sentenced to a minimum of one year.

After the ruling, CNN’s coverage of the story focused on the repercussions going to jail will have on the two high school students rather than the struggle the rape victim will face for the rest of her life.

This tribute was a segment of two CNN reporters, Poppy Harlow and Candy Crowley talking about the two student’s “potential loss” at life after being sentenced and forever identified as sexual offenders.

“I’ve never experienced anything like it,” Harlow reported live on air to Crowley after witnessing the conviction. “It’s incredibly emotional, even for an outsider like me. These two young men, with promising futures, star football players, A-students, literally watched as their lives fell apart.”

To even state that watching two young men get put to justice and get punished for the sick crime they committed was “emotional” is an absolute outrage, not only to the victim, but to the family of the victim, other rape victims, and the entire world.

Harlow had no right to try to make her viewers pity these two boys. No one cares if they had promising futures now ― people should be more concerned that the victim clearly had just as much of a promising future and will now live a very different life because of this traumatic event.

Watching the CNN footage, it is clear within the first couple minutes that the two reporters are empathizing with the sex offenders and barely mentioning the victim.

To me, this is absolutely absurd and wrong on so many levels. How about the struggles the girl will face now and for the rest of her life? Not only was she raped, she was humiliated by having images of herself posted on the Internet. If that isn’t enough, she has also been the target of several death threats because she was brave enough to report her rape.

It is in the best interest of the network and the journalists to cover this story without a slanted angle, and remain as neutral as possible. This media coverage even caused an online petition, that to date has already 205,000 signatures, demanding an apology from CNN for their coverage which “is nothing short of disgusting.”

Paul Callan, legal contributor at CNN, stated that “the court room is filled with tears, a tragedy.” I can call this so many things, but tragedy is not one of them. How is holding people accountable for their actions and serving them justice a tragedy?

Those boys had a choice and they chose to rape an innocent girl, film it, then share it on the Internet. She had no choice.

We shouldn’t feel guilty or empathize with these two sexual offenders but be happy that they are put to justice and are punished, a punishment they clearly deserve.

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