From the earliest days on the job, journalists are taught to report honestly and adhere to a specific code of ethics. One would assume that a reporter for the New York Times would be especially well-rehearsed in following these codes.
However, New York Times reporter James C. McKinley proved this assumption wrong in his recent article titled “Vicious Assault Shakes Texas Town.”
The article reported the heinous gang rape of an 11-year-old girl in an abandoned trailer by as many as 18 men in Cleveland, Texas.
What was more disturbing than the crime itself was the manner in which McKinley reported it, insinuating that the girl was responsible for her own rape. McKinley reported statements made by members of the Texas community that blamed the victim as true statements.
We believe that this reporter violated the journalistic code of ethics, and are demanding the termination of McKinley from his position with the New York Times as well as a retraction and an apology from the newspaper itself.
The offensive statement in McKinley’s article was his regurgitation of the opinions of residents in Cleveland, which read, “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.”
To make matters worse, McKinley also quoted community members more concerned with how the rape will affect the suspects, who range in age from middle school students to a 27-year-old, than it will the victim.
“It’s just destroyed our community,” McKinley wrote, quoting 48-year-old hospital worker Sheila Harrison. “These boys have to live with this the rest of their lives,” she said.
McKinley’s choice to include these quotes in the article is appalling, and editorializes the article to the point where he appears to blame the victim for what happened to her.
This violates journalistic ethics and places opinion into a news article where it does not belong.
A petition was created on change.org that demanded the New York Times apologize for the article.
The petition, which has over 46,000 signatures, states that a culture that blames victims for being raped as a result of what they were wearing, where they were or who they were with rather than blaming the rapist is a culture that condones rape.
We believe that the offensive statements included in the article served no purpose other than implicitly blaming the child for her rape.
They were not vital to the story and stole the focus of the story, turning a straightforward news article into an editorialized account of the events.
James C. McKinley should have had more common sense than to allow his sources to control the tone of his story, and should have considered whether it was ethical to use the quotes in the manner that he did.
However, it is clear that McKinley did not use sound judgment when writing his article and the New York Times failed to take ethics into consideration when editing this article.
McKinley should be fired for his inability to report in an honest and ethical manner, and the New York Times should apologize for allowing this article to be published.