Arthur Brisbane, the “public editor’ of the New York Times, has taken his own paper to task for this week’s story about a gang rape of an 11-year-old girl in the East Texas town of Cleveland. The story, headlined “Victious Assault Shakes Texas Town,” got “viral distribution” that was due partly to intense outrage among readers who thought the piece pilloried the victim, Brisbane says.
“My assessment is that the outrage is understandable,” says the ombudsman. “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.”He continues that, “It was not enough to simply report that the community is principally concerned about the boys and men involved – as this story seems to do. If indeed that is the only sentiment to be found in this community – and I find that very hard to believe – it becomes important to report on that as well by seeking out voices of professional authorities or dissenting community members who will at least address, and not ignore, the plight of the young girl involved.”