You can’t blame a reporter for reporting uncomfortable facts, like this evidence of a culture that places more responsibility on victims and has more sympathy for rapists. You can blame a reporter, though, for not using the tools available to him to provide a basic balance of information and opinions. A transition like this could follow that last quote: “But others have different concerns, like…” Now insert a quote from a person wondering what it’s going to be like for the victim to have nightmares, post-traumatic stress, depression, possibly crippling intimacy issues for a very long time. Instead, the only other people quoted are saying things like this:
Residents in the neighborhood where the abandoned trailer stands—known as the Quarters—said the victim had been visiting various friends there for months. They said she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s. She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground, some said.
“Where was her mother? What was her mother thinking?” said Ms. Harrison, one of a handful of neighbors who would speak on the record. “How can you have an 11-year-old child missing down in the Quarters?”
This is the point at which, as the writer’s editor, I would send him an email. “Dear James,” it would say. “Thanks for getting this in! I have some concerns that we’ve only got quotes from people who are worried about the suspects (‘The arrests have left many wondering who will be taken into custody next’) and think the girl was asking for it, especially since, even if she actually begged for it, the fact that she is 11 makes the incident stupendously reprehensible (not to mention still illegal). We don’t want anyone wrongly thinking you are being lazy or thoughtless or misogynist! Please advise if literally no other kinds of quotes are available because every single person who lives in Cleveland, Texas, is a monster.”