WaPo Misses Teen Rape Story: The Big Question is Why?

Last week a variety of news outlets reported that a teenage girl was raped by an Uber driver and that it was caught on tape due to surveillance cameras at a family’s northwest Washington home. The home, situated in an affluent neighborhood mere blocks from the National Cathedral in Cleveland Park, is nearby to where WaPo CEO Don Graham used to live.

And yet, guess which hometown publication had NOTHING on it? If you guessed WaPo, you’d be right. So much for local news. Right, Marty Baron, who is apparently crazy for local news, doesn’t start until January 2, 2013.

The order of reportage is as follows: The news first broke on a Cleveland Park listserv and was then reported by Popville, which covers D.C., on Dec. 14 at 3:50 p.m. Washington City Paper ran a story that same day at 7 p.m. but gave no credit to Popville. A site known as Nibletz also ran something that day — no specific time stamp. NBC Washington waited until that following Monday, a gargantuan three days after Popville, to run anything. They, too, gave no credit to the previous publications that had stories.

Why the lack of coverage by WaPo? We went on a mission to find out why, but it seems to be an arduous exercise in futility. We asked the publicist. Check. No response. We asked Erik Wemple of the Erik Wemple reported media blog because he seems to be in the know about a variety of things. While Wemple stressed that he does not speak for WaPo, he replied, “Don’t have any good notion on this, though I am guessing that the Post is wary of covering a single crime in an affluent area when it may not have done likewise in other parts of the city. Am away from desk right now but could take a closer look later.” Finally, we approached WaPo‘s ombudsman Patrick Pexton to see whether he has been receiving complaints about the lack of coverage. Check. No response.

What does it take to get a response from WaPo on a matter not relating to an authorized press release? Beats us.

Noteworthy: WaPo ran a story on Uber, the company whose driver allegedly raped the teen. That story, by city reporter Mike DeBonis, was published back in January 2012. DeBonis wrote about Uber being in big trouble on account of licensing issues and not being registered with the Taxicab Commission. At the time, city regs were unclear about the laws surrounding a company like Uber, which the story says claims to be something in between a taxi and limousine service.

Clarification to readers: WaPo has written several stories on Uber, the luxe car service, and we should have mentioned more than just one. Debonis also wrote this story on January 13, 2012 and this one on December 3, 2012. On December 15,  2012, WaPo‘s Hayley Tsukayama wrote about the Uber app. WaPo‘s Fritz Hahn wrote about Uber on Dec. 4. On Nov. 14, 2012, Tim Craig also wrote about Uber and the regulations by the D.C. Council.