Chicago Tribune reporter Howard Witt writes of the remarkable reaction to his story about a 14-year-old black girl from Paris, Texas, who was sent to a youth prison for up to 7 years for shoving a hall monitor at her high school. A 14-year-old white girl, convicted of arson for burning down her family’s house, was sentenced by the same Paris judge to probation.
Witt writes, “If you had Googled the black girl’s name, Shaquanda Cotton, the day before the story was published on the front page of the March 12 edition of the Tribune, you would have gotten zero results. On Monday afternoon, there were more than 35,000 hits. The story has been picked up on more than 300 blogs around the country…Dozens of talk-radio stations across the nation were buzzing about Shaquanda last week, protests on her behalf were held in Paris, a petition- and letter-drive aimed at Texas Gov. Rick Perry and the judge in the case, Chuck Superville, is under way…I’ve written thousands of stories for the Tribune over the last 25 years, from around the nation and across the world, and I’ve never seen a reaction like this before.”