The newspaper business, popularized in many Hollywood talkies in the 1930s, has been in a steady decline since the turn of the century. This dive can be attributed partly to something called "the Internet," where young people of the 21st century view pornography and upload photos of their bowel movements.
And it's because of this so-called "Internet," and the "Internet Age," that 21st century consumers - at least 42,000 of them - are perhaps too stupid to read news stories.
Case in point, New York Times writer James C. McKinley Jr's "Vicious Assault Shakes Texas Town" from last week.
The story is about the gang rape of an 11-year-old girl last November by 18 men, ranging in age from junior high to 27 years old.
Despite McKinley and the Times using adjectives like "vicious" to describe the rape, and "lurid" to define the cell phone video taken of the assault, the writer stands accused of quoting townspeople, including Sheila Harrison, who said, "These boys have to live with this the rest of their lives," and questioned the girl's mother for letting her walk around such a bad area in make-up and older-girl clothes.
The story prompted Shelby Knox of change.org to start a petition to make the Times apologize for "blaming a child for her gang rape."
Read that again. Go read the story, then read the "blaming a child" part. I'll wait.
Okay, done? Now get this. Knox was successful! Forty-two thousand people filled out her horseshit petition and got the Public Editor of the Times to say the story "lacked balance."
Balance! In a rape story! Knox requires quotes from people who say, "This is awful," and "Poor, poor girl." Knox and the other 42,000 sheep might find this hard to believe, but we know rape is bad! Times readers especially know that rape is an evil, evil thing, and this girl went through, and will continue to go through, hell. We don't need McKinley to tell us this. We're not children ourselves.
By the way, he does mention in the story that local churches held prayer services for the victim. I suppose that doesn't count.
I may sound harsh here. But let's start with Harrison, the one person who would and could speak about this vicious crime. I don't think McKinley quoted her to blame the victim. When a little girl gets gang raped The Accused-style, a reader is left with a lot of questions. And none of them are, "Is rape even bad? I mean, seriously?"
Neither McKinley nor Harrison are saying that, dressed as she was, this girl had it coming. It doesn't explain the unexplainable, but it sheds light on what a messed up section of town this is. Why was the girl there? Why did she dress like that? These are good questions, and don't necessarily point the finger at the victim.
And Harrison's "These boys" comment isn't sympathy for the devil, it's "These sick bastards have to live with this now."
That said, how the hell is McKinley responsible for anything Harrison says? Since when does a rape story need an asterisk stating that rape is bad? This whole "fair and balanced" garbage has gone out of control. Next thing you know a report about a despicable child molester will need to be accompanied by comments from someone who is pro-kid touching.
The elements of reporting is give the facts, quote some idiots, and submit it to your editor. You don't need statistics about rape or public service announcements under your byline. Rape is terrible, and, if you rape, you're not a good person. We know that, Mr. McKinley. I'll Google the rape stats later.
Again, I will state here that this was an awful, awful thing that happened. And a female, whether 11 or 111, is never to blame, but read the story again and, for once, don't get reflexively angry and start petitions. When The New York Times gets accused of something like this, it really is a sign that we're all doomed, and not just people living in Cleveland, Texas.