The biased coverage of DeVos and campus sexual assault | The Knife Media

 

(The Knife Media) Sexual assault is a complicated issue. DeVos’ 30-minute speech addressed some of these complexities. But a lot of the media coverage cherry picked information, emphasized only one side of the argument and gave a misleading impression of what she said.

Compare these headlines and opening paragraphs from The Daily Caller and The Hill. Each gives a slanted picture of DeVos’ proposed change: the former paints it as a necessary plan because the Obama administration’s guideline is unjust, and the latter portrays it as a bad idea that will protect accused rapists. Here’s the problem: both outlets are reporting on the exact same speech. It’s their bias that distorts it.

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There’s another issue that contributes to the slant: a lack of data-based information that would help us understand and evaluate the current guidelines. Much of the coverage gives few basic facts. What is Title IX? What were the Obama administration’s guidelines on how to apply it? What do legal experts on all sides of the argument say? NPR’s coverage, for instance, did answer some of these questions. But overall, when most outlets provided this type of information, they mostly did so with slant and spin.

It would also help to have statistics related to the current approach to sexual assault on campuses. For instance, how many cases have been reported since the 2011 directive went into effect, compared to before it came into effect? What percentage of people accused of sexual assault were later found to be not guilty? Have the number of assaults increased or decreased?

This information may be more difficult to find, as there is no central tracking, but if reporters spent less time writing dramatic, partisan coverage and more time digging through archives, they might find it. The public could then be better informed, and we may be better able to evaluate and address the problem of sexual assault.

Written by Julia Berry López

Edited by Jens Erik Gould

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