There were other outlets that failed here (though some, notably Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel and the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Rachel Dissell, got it right ). ThinkProgress points out that NBC News also discussed the boys’ “promising future,” now curtailed by being convicted of rape. The network didn’t mention that their future went off track by their own decision to commit a crime. Similarly, the Associated Press began a story by identifying the victim as a “drunken 16-year-old,” while the defendants were described as being part of “Steubenville’s celebrated high school football team.” (They, of course, had also been drinking.) USA Today also described her as “drunken.” This framing could easily have been handled differently. For one thing, back in September The Plain Dealer reported that the victim might have been drugged. This possibility was later corroborated by the victim on the witness stand. “Possibly drugged” or “unconscious” would have been better adjectives than “drunken.”

Additionally, Fox, CNN, and MSNBC ran the name of the victim in news clips, neglecting to drop the sound when one of the rapists named her in his apology. Dropping sound is an easy edit and is done by networks all the time for less weighty reasons. There is no excuse for not doing it here.

There is a lot one could say—and people are, eloquently—about the invidiousness of rape culture, the callousness of social media, and about the disparity in the treatment of athletes accused of rape and victims of those athletes.

But there is only one thing to say to the media: You know better. In 2013, after covering dozens of sexual assaults by athletes, you know better. You know better than to act as if it is a tragedy that the lives of athlete-rapists are ruined when they themselves chose to do the ruining. You know better than to insinuate that since the victim was drunk she may have deserved or wanted the assault to happen. You know better. And you should each apologize. And next time it happens—say, today, now that two athletes have been charged with sexual assault in Connecticut—you must do better.

 

Jennifer Vanasco is a is a news editor at WNYC and the former editor in chief of MTV Network's LGBT news site 365gay.com. She writes about social minorities, national politics, and culture. Her award-winning newspaper column on gay and women's issues ran for 15 years.