CNN Steubenville coverage shows media’s problem covering rape

The widespread criticism of CNN’s coverage of the Steubenville rape convictions highlights the deeply problematic ways most mainstream American media outlets approached the story, according to Mallary Jean Tenore at Poynter. On Monday, a petition asking CNN to apologize for its coverage of the Steubenville convictions–which many saw as apologetic for the rapists–gained more than 30,000 signatures on Change.org.

(SEE MORE: CNN, Fox News, MSNBC Air Name Of Steubenville Rape Victim)

Tenore’s post shows how, given the limited access the media had to information about the victim, the narrative surrounding the suspects became increasingly warped. She argues that many journalists lost sight of the important complexities of the story and its implications on “rape culture.”

“There’s no doubt that covering rape is difficult,” Tenore says. “[I]t takes time and resources to report on the nuances of the crime, offer context about how common rape is, and explore both sides of the story. But that’s exactly the kind of reporting we need more of.”

Many have said that if it hadn’t been for the efforts of bloggers and the hacker activist group Anonymous, it’s possible the rape allegations may have never been investigated. The New York Times profiled the efforts of blogger Alexandria Goddard, who grew up in Steubenville and helped piece together much of the social media constellation that became crucial in identifying suspects.

Tenore’s Poynter post also showcases Yahoo Sports’ Dan Wetzel, who analyzed the football team’s influence in the town where “a culture of extreme arrogance collapse[d] in two tearful rape convictions.”

(SEE MORE: Gawker’s post railing against CNN’s interest in the “promising futures” of the rapists.)

About Michael Juliani

Michael Juliani is a senior studying Print and Digital Journalism at USC's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. He's a senior news editor and executive producer for Neon Tommy and an associate editor and contributor for the Online Journalism Review. His writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and the Huffington Post, among other places.

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