Last week, we wrote about the tragic Cleveland gang rape story, but, more specifically, the coverage from both The New York Times and Houston Chronicle that sparked angry blog posts and cries of racism. In a strange and unfortunate turn of events, the controversy over the coverage of the story seems to have nearly overshadowed the actual crime.
Criticism over the initial stories centered around statements from Cleveland residents about how the rape has impacted the community as well as how the 11-year-old "dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s." Many, including the Times's ombudsman, have been critical of the coverage. Both publications say they were simply trying to report on the reactions of residents.
Yesterday, the story took a turn for the decidedly worse as allegations of multiple instances of the rape of the 11-year-old girl surfaced. The story will no doubt shine an even brighter spotlight on the small east Texas town and on how media covers events such as these.
For its part, the Chron took a straightforward approach to the story, relying heavily on information provided to them by authorities with no community reaction. As of this morning, they were the only publication with the story online.
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While the Chron is certainly being careful in their latest delivery, they did manage to briefly mention the controversy surrounding the case and its coverage writing:
Revelations that the girl was raped by multiple men and boys over more dates will likely fuel additional outrage and controversy in this town of roughly 8,000 people.
We feel certain the phrases "tread lightly" and "by the book" were uttered more than once over the past week when it comes to this story.