17 September 2010
The Bethany Scorro (BS) situation is an example of when the media rushes to judgment.
Vancouver Police Chief Clifford Cook told The Oregonian that police questioned several black women matching the description of the alleged attacker before they discovered Storro made it up. "This society has a tendency to want to believe that all crime is done by African-Americans," Margo Bright, president of the Vancouver chapter of the NAACP, told the paper Thursday.
The Columbian newspaper in northwest Washington wrote that plenty of people have a right to be upset with Storro, including "Vancouver's African-Americans, who are troubled that Storro described the woman who supposedly attacked her as black." Weeks earlier, The Columbian had included Storro's description of her alleged attacker as a "black woman," as did scores of other news organizations, including this one.
One AOL News reader wrote to express his frustration with the story. "You just bought her story, hook, line and sinker," Henry Haynes wrote in an e-mail. "And of course the criminal this woman dreamed up was black."
Roy Peter Clark, a senior scholar at the Poynter Institute, a research center for journalists, said the case recalled another in which the race of the accused attacker played a misleading role.
In 1994, Susan Smith, a 23-year-old white woman, drowned her two young sons by driving her car into John D. Long Lake in Union, S.C. For over a week, she claimed a black man had hijacked her car, and she went on national television to beg the unidentified black man -- who did not exist -- to return her children unharmed.
"This is another cautionary tale for journalists, for law enforcement people, for judges and prosecutors, for people in the medical field who take care of victims," Clark told AOL News today in a phone interview. "All of us can learn some important lessons about rushing to judgment even when the evidence appears to be overwhelming."
Years before, in 1989, Charles Stuart, who was white, claimed a black man had shot and killed his pregnant wife, Carol, during an armed robbery in the Boston neighborhood of Mission Hill. Stuart was severely wounded as well. Months later, it was discovered that Stuart was the likely killer, but not before police had arrested William Bennett, a black man, in connection with the crime. Bennett was later cleared, but the case inflamed already tense racial relations in Boston.
Stuart committed suicide in 1990.
Sponsored Links Bruce Shapiro, executive director for the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, said reporting on these kinds of stories can be difficult. "When you have a credible victim and police sources who believe the victim, it presents a complicated dilemma for reporters. Because when people have terrible things happen to them, we generally believe them," he said.
On NBC's "Today" show this morning, Schuman said Storro is "very remorseful" but could face criminal charges for lying about the incident to the police and for prompting an "incredibly expensive" investigation that "wasted a lot of valuable resources."
--courtesy AOL news.com
Posted by Daij at 12:46 PM