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Cleveland Gang-Rape Story: Times's Ombudsman Says It Was Flawed

In-house criticism over the East Texas gang-rape coverage
In-house criticism over the East Texas gang-rape coverage

The New York Times's ombudsman has joined the chorus criticizing the paper's coverage of the Cleveland gang-rape of an 11-year-old girl.

Arthur S. Brisbane noted that many people thought the story leaned towards blaming the victim and being sympathetic to the alleged perpetrators.

"My assessment is that the outrage is understandable," he writes for the Sunday edition. "The story dealt with a hideous crime but addressed concerns about the ruined lives of the perpetrators without acknowledging the obvious: concern for the victim."

Philip Corbett, standards editor for The Times, told me earlier today that the story focused on the reaction of community residents and that there was no intent to blame the victim. He added, "I do think in retrospect we could have done more to provide more context to make that clear."

The Houston Chonicle has also been somewhat swept up in this controversy; yesterday editor Jeff Cohen told us the paper's critics were misguided: "People who criticize us for reporting are criticizing the messengers, not the speakers," he said. "This is a horrific, tragic story. We always edit with care but have been doubly sensitive with regard to anything out of Cleveland."


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