The Steubenville Rape Case continues to fascinate me. Each member of the class was assigned a form of media to study and code and for the team paper. For my part, I covered CNN and NPR broadcast transcripts. Though I couldn’t honestly say that coding was “fun,” it was interesting to actually read a transcript instead of listening to or watching it. My goal was to find various frames utilized in these in these broadcasts and code them for the paper in order to gather a larger understanding of what was being said about the case. At first, I thought that finding these frames would be a simple task. However, it quickly became obvious that I was wrong. I ended up marking almost every transcript as neutral. Although some common themes were presented throughout the transcripts, it was obvious that CNN was extra careful not to come down on one side of the fence. They would use phrases like “many believe” or “some say” in order to remove themselves from accusations of bias. The majority of the articles were more sympathetic to the victim’s side of things. This is probably because of how agencies came under fire when the story first broke for providing too much sympathy for the perpetrators. In the NPR transcripts, I found much more depth. Rather than simply reporting the latest happenings of the case, they provided detailed interviews with experts about the morality of the case as well as our surrounding culture. Many pointed out that girls AND boys need to be educated more about rape and what it means exactly. They were mostly very equal in their treatment of the perpetrators and victim. While NPR called for support for the girl involved, they were also sure not to bash the assailants and referred to the incident more as a stupid decision made by unguided teens than a crime committed by monsters. It was also interesting to hear the viewpoints provided by listeners who called into the show. Some of them had good insights on rape from their own personal experiences.
One thing that became obvious to me when studying this case is the power of social media. Reports of massive protests in Steubenville from people who had never even met the girl really showed how these media platforms can create a frenzy. I think this can be both good and bad for cases in the future. Good in the sense that social media can help spread awareness about wrongdoings, but bad in the sense that facts can sometimes become skewed and people can get worked up about things that they don’t fully understand. This was most evident to me in some of the interviews I read in the transcripts. In my opinion, the case should have ended with the conviction of these two teenagers. But because of social media and the movement that developed because of this case, it’s almost like type of witch hunt developed. Suddenly people who knew next to nothing about the case’s details were accusing the entire town of Steubenville for condoning rape. Because of the public outcry, law enforcement has been forced to conduct a massive research effort regarding individuals who were surrounding the case. All this does is perpetuate the living hell that this girl has had to go through over the last year. It has been expressed that she and her family just wish the case could be over so that she could start rebuilding her life. I think many people have become too obsessed with selfishly punishing as many people as they feasibly can and have lost sight of what is truly best for the victim. This is an example of two kids committing a horrible act while others failed to intervene. It was not a giant conspiracy put on by Steubenville to ruin a girl’s life.