Cosby Case Shows How Social Media Encourage News Outlets To Cover Rape


In 2006, a woman publicly accused Bill Cosby of raping her two decades earlier. Her story lingered at the fringes. Two weeks ago, says the Washington Post, the same woman, Barbara Bowman, repeated the story about Bill Cosby she told in 2006. This time, the news media's reaction was wholly different. The story triggered an explosion of coverage, which led other women to emerge with (or retell) similar stories, which led to even more coverage. Once reluctant to document uncorroborated claims of sexual violence, the news media has reshaped its approach rapidly. Rape allegations are more likely to be covered and to be treated with greater nuance and deference when they are, say people who follow the issue.

“I think there has been some change,” said Jaclyn Friedman of Women, Action and the Media, a nonprofit group that seeks gender justice in media portrayals. “You still see some victim-blaming coverage. . . . But I see a lot more credible, credulous coverage [of sexual violence issues] in a lot of mainstream places.” Friedman and others credit social media with revolutionizing the way the mainstream media approaches issues involving rape.

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