Sexual assault needs covered more carefully

Published by adviser, Author: Withheld , Date: November 13, 2014
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It is a given that all print publications are subject to certain ethical standards, no matter the story. And this is especially true when The Rocket chooses to cover incidents that are particularly sensitive to the one(s) directly affected by it, their peers, and the larger community. The recent sexual assault that made the front page of last week’s issue was one of those stories in which the author had an especially great responsibility to cover it carefully, and in this task she failed.

Like any newspaper, The Rocket’s purpose is to keep the community informed about important happenings — but there are limits to this. When a woman is sexually assaulted, you do not make the public privy to all the lurid details of the terrible experience. Imagine being the woman who suffered what was basically rape, and then seeing a vivid description of it recounted in your school’s newspaper, on the front page, for all your peers to see. Furthermore, just because you did not include the victim’s name does not mean she remains anonymous. This is a small town and a relatively small college where students, like anywhere else, talk and know about each other. Use some common sense. 

This is not to say that you should not report on such incidents; indeed, it is crucial that you do so in the interest of student safety. But when your intentions start to shift from one of practical merit to that of cheap sensationalism, something has gone terribly wrong. I ask that in the future your staff is more judicious about which details they choose to include when it comes to sensitive cases like this so that we may protect the privacy of Slippery Rock students.

Name witheld by request

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