Friday, October 9, 2009

Journalists agree they need to move slower, in light of Hofstra

At Hofstra several days ago, journalists sat down and gave a frank assessment of the wretched news coverage of the Hofstra false rape claim. Before we get to what they said, here is my take on the coverage: Hofstra was a case study in the proverbial rush to judgment. For what crime aside from rape do we hand false accusers the unfettered right to use both the police and the news media as a sword to give effect to their lies? The initial news reports of this alleged crime merely parroted the police, who merely accepted the word of a lone accuser (who turned out to be "troubled") over that of five young men. The news reports gave their audiences the unmistakable impression that a rape had occurred. Not "possibly" had occurred. Not "allegedly" had occurred. We expect our police to be something more than "muscle" for troubled young false rape accusers; and we expect our journalists to be something more than parrots for the police.

Here are excerpts from the news story:

Journalists and students dissect recent rape hoax

At an event hosted by professors Peter Goodman and Geoffrey Roth of the Department of Journalism, Media Studies and Public Relations last Thursday evening, the New York Post’s Kieran Crowley, WCBS-TV’s Jennifer McLogan and Carol D’Auria of 1010 WINS spoke to students about the various approaches they took to cover the story and what they felt could have been done differently.
. . . .
McLogan said that from the start, it was her instinct to question the accusation. “The police were sure of the rape,” McLogan said, “but I said to myself, I hope this girl’s credible.”

She gave more personal insight on her perspective while covering the story. “We want to proceed cautiously,” she said. “I’m a mom with three kids in college; two girls and a boy. I wouldn’t want my daughters to be the victim, but I wouldn’t want my son railroaded either.”

D’Auria agreed with McLogan’s notion that caution is necessary when covering such sensitive subject matter, but was pessimistic. “We need to move slower,” she said, “but I don’t see that happening.”

Following student questions, the evening was wrapped up with each journalist describing what they would do differently.

D’Auria reiterated her previous sentiment saying, “We just really need to move slower.” McLogan answered similarly, saying that she would have “proceeded with more caution.”

Crowley offered a different opinion. “I asked the same questions I would ask tomorrow,” he said, “There is a flaw in our criminal justice system, and that’s what this is about.”