Creating Journalists at Emmanuel College

A guide for ENGL 2501 and ENGL 3801

When covering domestic violence becomes routine

Janay and Ray Rice hold a press conference. CBS News photo

Janay and Ray Rice hold a press conference.
CBS News photo

We’re closing out a week in which we talked about police reporting in my introductory journalism class. On Friday, the class discussion focuses on questions newsrooms face in the Internet age: should a publication remove an arrest story from its website if the person isn’t convicted? Should it remove a story if a person who is convicted says it’s preventing them from getting employment?

We’re also talking about Massachusetts’ new ban on the release of the names of person arrested on domestic violence charges. When I made note of that on Facebook just now, MetroWest Daily News crime reporter Norman Miller (students will be meeting Norm later this semester, if crime cooperates) reminded me the moratorium is technically supposed to last for four hours after arrest. That still isn’t preventing local logs from looking like redacted FBI documents.

Just in time for the discussion comes this article on Deadspin, in which a former crime reporter, in light of the Ray Rice suspension from football following the release of a video that shows him beating his now-wife, recounts how covering women’s murders had a routine:

It’s amazing how routine abuse can become. That’s why, whenever a woman turned up dead in South Florida, I knew exactly what to do.

First, find the old restraining order she’d let expire. Second, pull the file from the courthouse. Finally, find the letter inside in which she’d told the court her boyfriend or husband promised he would never hit her again. Because he’s a changed man. Because this was a one-time incident. Because I’m at fault, too. Because this is not a reflection of our relationship. He’ll never hit me again, the dead women had pleaded—just like Janay Rice did, on national television.

I’m writing this the night before this class discussion, so if and when my students read this, it will likely be after that. Still a worthwhile read.

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This entry was posted on September 11, 2014 by in Covering Crime and tagged , , , .

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