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Bridgewater State Student Paper Controversy: Latest In Complicated History Of Media Coverage Of Rape

A student-newspaper at Bridgewater State University recently made the decision to print the name of a sexual assault victim who spoke out at a “Take Back the Night” rally sponsored by the university’s school of social work. The decision  has caused an uproar around the community, including calls for the story to be removed from the paper’s website.

The victim, speaking in front of a crowd of about 200, said that before transferring to Bridgewater she was raped by her ex-boyfriend in the basement of a dorm after a party.

Though it isn’t against the law, newspapers across the country have long held a tradition of withholding the names of rape and sexual assault victims, and only publishing them with the consent of the victim.

The student reporter caused further outrage by including additional information about the student victim that had been gathered from publicly accessible social media sites.

The student newspaper says it was doing its job of covering the event – and that there “is implied consent when someone speaks in a public forum.” And about digging around social media, the newspaper said was just good modern-day journalism at work.

We’ll examine the Bridgewater situation, and dig into the complicated history of how the media covers sexual assault.

Guests:

  • Helen Benedict, journalism professor, Columbia University; author, “Virgin or Vamp: How the Press Covers Sex Crimes”
  • Kelly McBride, senior faculty, Poynter Institute

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