Tuesday, March 29th, 2011
12

Paper of Record: That 11-Year-Old in Texas Is Actually a Victim!

The 11-year-old in Texas who was raped by a group of men was not, it turns out, asking for it, reports the paper of record, which was previously not really clear regarding the sixth-grader's ability to be considered a "proper" rape victim. (That is, when the paper wasn't overly concerned about the futures of the young men involved.) Yes, it's do-over time on the most outrageous story in the world, one that was so wildly mishandled that it prompted world-wide outcry and now… another, more thorough story—a story that is now about a "nightmarish ordeal." (You think?) It turns out the 11-year-old in question was a very happy, "bubbly" young person who underwent a drastic and rapid personality change over a period of months. This personality change—in which she began to "dress older than her age," as per the original story—apparently manifested at the same time that she began to be regularly sexually assaulted. (Go. Figure.)

In any event. This new story contains tons of really, really terrible detail and is probably not best read first thing in the morning! One thing to know is that Cleveland, Texas, only has a population of 7,605—there's only like 800 students total in the high school!—and nineteen young men are being charged.

12 Comments / Post A Comment

brent_cox (#40)

Journalism question: shouldn't the NYT mention the original story in the redo? If feels like pretending the first story never happened.

MaryHaines (#3,666)

My reaction exactly. Not even a "related stories" link online! It's nice that they figured out the first story never should have been published. But it doesn't count unless they actually say so. Especially since they didn't even take the assignment away from McKinley!

Louis Fyne (#2,066)

Firstly, this is the most awful, terrible thing ever and reading that article first thing in the morning is a guaranteed week killer.

Horrific things of this nature have been happening in awful backwater towns since time immemorial, It's nice to see it as the A1 lead story A1 in the NYT, regardless of how it got there.

Now I need to go cancel my New Yorker subscription before the 5,000 word version comes out and makes me jump off a cliff.

Agree on all counts. :(

MaryHaines (#3,666)

You know what's even worse? Following a link to an AP story headlined "Last Suspect Held in Gang Rape of Calif. Girl, 11" thinking it would be another report on this case, and then realizing, no, wait, this is a different gang rape of an 11-year-old.

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2011/03/28/us/AP-US-Calif-Gang-Rape.html

Mr. B (#10,093)

They've also got the girl's father apparently violating a judicial gag order by talking to them — impressive. (Unless the intereview was given before the gag order; it isn't clear.)

My own sense of the original story coming being so unbalanced was that a reporter was parachuted into an unfamiliar area and got what he could get by deadline. The story should have been held at least a day to let him do more reporting (it's not like it was breaking news, I don't think), but the editors made a snap decision that turned out to be the wrong one. There's also a taboo in reporting sex cases against bothering victims or their families, ostensibly to protect their anonymity, but here, with the authorities releasing almost no information beyond the charging documents and the locals mostly rallying behind the suspects, it turned into a one-sided clusterfuck.

Either way, the followup is kind of fascinating.

N P@twitter (#10,768)

This is one of the more sensible opinions I have read about this story.

d-zastr (#5,065)

In general I definitely agree. I do have to add on a separate note that there were so many misuses of language in the original article that really added up, which I personally think had more to do with the writer and editor's insensitivities than the short lead-time.

Breaking editorial policy (I'm sure unintentionally, but still) to refer to a 19-year-old as a 'boy' and not a 'man', while simultaneously going through great pains to age this girl beyond 11 through descriptions of her dress, etc., as well as use of the phrase 'had sex with' instead of 'raped': these choices really matter, and really, really pissed me off.

Scum (#1,847)

Probably but also: the accused were black. There is not a soul on earth who believes that if the accused had been 19 affluent whites who played some la di da sport like lacrosse the story wouldve been written the same way.

You had an NY times journalist faced with the prospect of having to write a racists dream story of 19 black savages brutally raping a defenceless 11 year old girl and his mind folded in on itself.

toadvine (#1,698)

The NY Times' skepticism was misplaced. It should have been a story about the inevitable racial overtones inherent in a story alleging that 19 African-American kids in a small East Texas town gang-raped a child.

laurel (#4,035)

I read this in the wee, wakeful hours last night. It didn't help with the not sleeping.

For some reason, this detail sticks with me, "Another was Marcus A. Porchia, 26, who worked at a local mental health clinic."

deepomega (#1,720)

Fortunately, the internet never sleeps and the internet never forgets. A google for NYT and Cleveland Texas brings up a ton of criticism for the first take.

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