Steubenville Coverage Draws Stark Criticism

By Alex Weprin 

Sunday morning the rape trial in Steubenville came to a close, with two high school football players found guilty of raping a 16 year-old girl. The subject matter lends itself to strong emotions, especially given the age of the victim and the boys who raped her. Those emotions were apparent as people responded to TV news coverage of the verdict.

CNN felt the brunt of the criticism yesterday, with a Huffington Post editor arguing that the coverage was slanted in favor of the football players, who he notes were just convicted of rape.

“It was incredibly emotional, it was difficult for anyone in there to watch those boys break down,” Poppy Harlow said. “[It was] also difficult, of course, for the victim’s family.”

Thousands of people have signed a petition demanding CNN apologize for the segments.

Today, Fox News was criticized for accidentally revealing the first name of the victim in the trial when showing a clip from the courtroom. It is worth noting however that MSNBC (at 12 PM Sunday), CNN (at 11:48 AM Sunday) and at least one local CBS affiliate also aired the same footage revealing the victim’s name. In all the cases it was clearly accidental, as the outlets have a policy of not revealing the names of victims.

Update: The victim’s mother released an audio statement to Poppy Harlow during a face to face meeting today. It will run during the 8 PM and 9 PM hours. Given that Harlow is at the forefront of the criticism being levied at CNN, it looks as though the victim’s family may not feel the same way.