With nearly a month to go before the Duke lacrosse players accused of rape have a hearing in court on May 15 — how many cable TV talking head hours between now and then? — we’re confident that bad reporting on the case will not be in short supply.
To date, however, this piece by ABC News’ Adrienne Mand Lewin gets our vote for most regrettable. It is the sort of story that might provoke a good guffaw, were one reading The Onion (indeed, it reads like an Onion story, though perhaps with less thorough reporting).
But on ABC News? Not so funny.
Everything about this piece is iffy, starting with its raison d’être.
Lewin’s lede: “They’re on every college campus where sports teams succeed: groupies who want to date athletes — or at least have sex with them.” And? Is this news?
In paragraph nine, Lewin more or less confesses that, no, it is not news, but that she is using the Duke situation to pretend that it is. “It’s certainly nothing new that college students have sex or that athletes are popular. But in light of the rape allegations at Duke University and the cancellation of the men’s lacrosse team’s season there — while a separate issue — players’ behavior and the impact it can have on a team are now at the forefront of many college students’ minds.”
But what is actually “at the forefront” of the minds of the six college students Lewin interviewed for her article (three of who would provide only their first names) is not “players’ behavior and the impact it can have on a team” but rather the behavior of those sex-crazed jock groupies we met in Lewin’s lede.
Lewin writes: “At Princeton University, where the men’s lacrosse team is regularly ranked as one of the best in the nation” — and, we’d add, where Lewin apparently started and ended her reporting on what’s on “college students’ minds” — these jock groupies are known as “laxtitutes or “lacrosstitutes.” (Eat your heart out, Onion writers! Either that, or start recruiting from Princeton). Distracted by these “laxtitutes,” Lewin spends most of her article focusing on their behavior rather than on “players’ behavior and the impact it can have on a team,” as initially promised.
So how do “laxtitutes” behave? Writes Lewin: “Candi Arner, a Princeton freshman, said her friends knew three girls who between them had slept with nine players on the team.” You know, sort of like how Simone in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” knew that Ferris was sick because her “best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who’s going with the girl who saw Ferris pass out at 31 Flavors last night.”
This, as Salon’s Rebecca Traister has noted, is “journalism hearsay.”
Liz Cox Barrett is a freelance writer and graphic designer in Kalispell, Montana. She worked as a newspaper journalist in Denver and Kalispell for 20 years.
It’s going to be a long 27 days.