Thoughts on Preliminary Findings

 

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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.  

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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.   

Team Paper Thoughts

The Steubenville rape case has provided a huge amount of conflict and controversy throughout the country and in my own mind.  In researching this event, I’ve been forced to ask myself questions I’ve never encountered before.  As I learn more and more about this case, I am surprised by how many angles there are to it.  When the story first came out on the news, it was portrayed as a simple rape case with two assailants and one victim.  However, the more I look at the facts, the more I can’t help but feel sorry for the assailants as well as the victim.  Yes, I know that sounds ridiculous to say.  After all, how can anyone have anyone have sympathy for rapists?  It is undeniable that rape is a gruesome tragedy and that all those who commit the horrible act should be punished.  However, it is important to define exactly what constitutes rape before calling someone a rapist. 

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In the case of Steubenville, the two assailants actually digitally (finger) penetrated the victim.  It is also important to note that this was not the first time digital penetration occurred that night.  The victim had no problem with it in the back of a car a few hours before the incident, and she was conscious during that time.  In reading some of the eyewitness reports, Ma’lik Richmond and Trent Hays don’t outwardly appear to be violent, evil, perverts to me.  They look more like frightened teens who made some horrible decisions.  In the courtroom videos, Trent Mays can be seen sobbing and showing remorse for what happened.   One of the boys was even said to have held the victim’s hair back for her as she puked in the street from excessive drinking earlier that night. Although I’m not saying what they did was acceptable by any means, I do think that there are some murky details in this case that should be observed.  What was the intent of the boys’ actions?  After all, the girl had supposedly been fine with digital penetration earlier.  Did they think she was accepting it again?  Was the girl actually unconscious, or just extremely drunk to the point of immobility?  I’m not the one to give rape a definition, but I think it is important that news providers clearly define what happened in the case so that the public can come to their own conclusions.  It is my belief that Ma’lik and Trent should be punished for their actions.  No one should take advantage of another person when that person isn’t in their right mind.  However, I personally see a difference between two immature high school students who made a big mistake and a sexual predator who violently rapes women for his own enjoyment.  Although what they did is wrong, I’m not sure they should simply be tossed into the category of rapist.  What happened in Steubenville is unfortunate on all sides of the case.  The victim, assailants, and entire town have had to suffer from the stupidity of two young men.

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In regards to research, I’m still sifting through yahoo news articles.  Almost all of the sources I’ve found are similar.  Many of the newer articles written about Steubenville don’t seem to have any frame within them.  I think this is because a lot of the passion has died down since the incident occurred.  Also, after seeing how major news stations came under fire for being too obvious in their framing, maybe others are afraid to share their opinions on the subject so openly.  It will be interesting to see how our class will be able to code the information we’ve gathered so far. 

Here are some examples of what i’ve been finding

http://gma.yahoo.com/steubenville-rape-case-grand-jury-indicts-schools-technology-204955582–abc-news-topstories.html

http://www.pjstar.com/free/x1155172926/Shutdown-spawns-vacuum-in-farm-market-information

http://www.tennessean.com/article/20130903/OPINION03/309030026/1969/NEWS

http://www.theintelligencer.net/page/content.detail/id/589921.html

Dr. Marlene Neill’s Presentation on Research

By Ben Murray

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Last Tuesday, Dr. Marlene Neill, an assistant professor of Journalism, Public Relations and New Media at Baylor University, visited our Mass Communication Theory class to share her ideas on scholarly research.  Dr. Neill studies Public Relations and its influence on the ethics and functionality of the workplace.  She highlighted papers she wrote titled, “Beyond the C Suite” and “PR Professionals as Organizational Conscience,” which were published last year.

Dr. Neill also provided the class with useful and interesting information regarding the research and writing of an academic research article.  She addressed one of the most difficult parts of writing a paper: choosing a topic.   Her first piece of advice was to read journal articles that interest you. Most importantly, focus on the conclusion of the articles.  It is in the conclusion section, that authors will offer suggestions for future research and list other areas within the subject matter that need further study.

“If anything, reading other journal articles could spark a new idea and take your research in a completely different direction,” Neill said.

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