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Commentary: Media perpetuates rape culture

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Kristina Bugante, Staff Writer

Kristina Bugante, Staff Writer

Over a month has passed since Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond of the Steubenville rape case were found guilty for raping a 16-year-old girl while she was unconscious back in August, 2012.

Mays and Richmond, both football players of Steubenville High School, were sentenced to juvenile detention until they turn 21.

This has opened up discussion between many on numerous issues surrounding the case.

However, as a journalism major, one of the things that disturbed me greatly was the media coverage of the trial.

CNN correspondent Poppy Harlow, who was covering the trial live from Steubenville, held a note of lament in her voice as she reported how difficult it was for “an outsider like (her)” to see these “two young men” with “promising futures” have their lives “fall apart.”

CNN anchor Candy Crowley asked legal analyst Paul Callan about how much Mays and Richmond will suffer from the fact that they are now registered sex offenders.

“That will haunt them for the rest of their lives,” Crowley said.

It is perhaps a bit extreme to accuse Harlow and Crowley of being rape apologists, but I feel accusing them of practicing poor journalism is justifiable.

I get it; journalists love a good sob story to report. However, given how CNN covered it, this is the wrong story to have your audience sob over.

Harlow and Crowley must have forgotten that Mays and Richmond publicly and repeatedly raped an unconscious girl, dragged her body around from place to place, and as if it were not disgusting enough, posted the evidence on social media sites, deeming themselves as part of the “rape crew.”

I do not know if CNN is aware of this, but many people, including myself, look to them as a legitimate news source.

Their rape case coverage not only shows that they were neglecting journalism ethics, but they are also needlessly emphasizing the fact that we live in a culture that empathizes with criminals and blames and shames rape victims.

The perpetuation of this rape culture will guarantee that future generations will not fully understand the concept of giving consent and that victims should keep quiet about their assault, as it will only lead to them being ostracized.

This is already evident. The victim, who was brave enough to speak out, was and still is being shamed for something that was committed against her while she was unconscious.

I bet the victim sincerely apologizes about how selfish she was for single-handedly ruining the lives of these “star football players” and “very good students.”

I do not think it is right for professional journalists to be focusing on the sex offenders. How about the young victim? How will she recover from this horrific ordeal?

A petition created by Gabriel Garcia of Knoxville, Tenn., has over 290,000 supporters demanding that CNN formally apologize for their coverage of the case.

“Change must start with you,” the petition states. “As journalists for a major network that reaches millions of households in the United States and worldwide, it is your responsibility. Accept it.”

Kristina Bugante, a freshman journalism major, is a staff writer the Campus Times. She can be reached by email at

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