This weekend, New York Times executive editor Bill Keller made an offhand reference to the newspaper's notorious coverage of an eleven-year-old's gang rape in a small Texas town. (You'll recall its focus on what would happen to the poor boys and on the style choices of the victimized child.)
Writing about the "first principles" of newsgathering, Keller pointed out some mistakes his newsroom had made, including "cringe-making one-offs like the ham-handed article that led some readers to think we were blaming the 11-year-old victim of a monstrous gang rape in Texas (the only way to make amends was to order up a whole new story)."
This is, to say the least, an interesting assessment. For one thing, the Times was hardly critical of its own reporting in its statement to us, nor under the questioning of the Public Editor, who concluded that the story "lacked balance." The most the standards editor would say was that the piece was about the community reaction, and "I do think in retrospect we could have done more to provide more context to make that clear." But more to the point, as far as we can tell, no "whole new story" has run, although the Public Editor did allude to it on March 11.
James McKinley's original piece on the case ran March 9, almost three weeks ago. Is it possible another reporter is still working on the story that will purportedly "make amends," short of an actual apology? We reached out to the Times spokeswoman and will keep you updated.
If there is another story in the works, it will be up against the gag order a judge issued, as well as the continuing coverage of Cindy Horswell in The Houston Chronicle. Today she profiles the accused rapists. They seem to have very little in common — among them are men with extensive criminal pasts, including manslaughter and another sex crime, as well as men with stainless records. Banality of evil, anyone?
Traditional News Outlets - Living Among the Guerrillas [NYT]
A Look At 19 Accused In Girl's Gang Rape [Houston Chronicle]
Earlier: Media Blows It With Pathetic Gang Rape Coverage
Times Responds To Gang Rape Story But Still Needs Some Pointers
Gag Order Issued In Texas Gang Rape Case But The REsponse Remains Twisted