Reporting Gone Wrong

Trigger Warning: This essay is about rape and rape culture.

When I planned this essay, it was inspired by an unfortunate phrase that I caught in a true crime show on ID. An officer described the rape and murder of a woman as a “rape gone wrong”. Clearly, he was just recycling the phrase “burglary gone wrong”, which is used to indicate that someone was unexpectedly home or awake. I don’t think the officer meant to imply that the presence of the rape victim was unexpected, but it’s that kind of casual language that supports rape culture. The implication is that there’s a right way for a rape to go, which is a damn creepy way of thinking.

That’s what I had planned to write about. Then the verdict came in from the Steubenville, OH rape trial, and news agencies fell over themselves to mourn the “promising futures” of the convicted rapists.

Personally, I believe the only their futures promised was more rape, but I’m a cynic.

The 24-hour news cycle promotes a lot of lazy reporting. Something needs to fill the time, so the latest big event is worked over until every last cliché has been wrung from it and those clichés have in turn been ground into nothingness.

Communities are ‘quiet’, ‘close’, and ‘peaceful’ up until they’re ‘shocked’ and ‘saddened’ by ‘sudden violence’. Everything in a trial is either ’emotional’ or ‘not betraying any emotion’. These are some of the building blocks reporters use when they have nothing to say.

In a rape trial, especially of a minor, the victim is protected, so all the press has to work with is the defendant. So, when pressed for material, they pull out the usual time-filling nonsense and wind up reporting on the wasted potential of rapists. There is no excuse for it; it’s sheer laziness.

It’s reporting gone wrong.

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