Siren song of the sound bite
A shopping trip to New York City for a few minutes of what two girls think of a friend who came forward with allegations Kobe Bryant raped her. A flight to Los Angeles television studios for a young fellow, another friend, to report that he saw marks on her body.
Tabloid offers up to $12,500 for another friend’s story. The same friend claims a big Southern California newspaper reporter tricked her into giving up a secret and putting her name to it. Paper stands by its methods.
Yet another “friend” gets air time with a breathless report about the young woman enjoying herself at, gasp, a party. What, in addition to those felonious convictions for having been a high school cheerleader and good enough singer to try out for a national talent show, by god she’s gone to a party and managed to see a bit of humor in a grim situation? Ah hah! That’s an indictment in the court of public opinion?
Sadly, the young woman has had upheavals in her life that could have some bearing on the case against the basketball player. But attending a party three weeks after the incident and managing a joke is not among them.
Blame those awful reporters with the temerity to ask questions, sure. And their editors who exercise judgment on whether to to print or air them.
But it looks at least as much like the siren’s song of the sound bite is overpowering. Tie your daughters and sons to the mast. These are dangerous shoals Eagle has sailed into.
Many people have asked when the newspapers and networks will begin identifying the young woman by name. Short answer: Never.
Most of questioners are outraged Kobe Bryant fans, who still haven’t figured out the kid did something hideous, if not criminal. The questions rain down in the vein that the journalists are all somehow protecting the accuser while picking on the poor superstar. Some critics, though, are more thoughtful, and they scratch at an issue that crops up from time to time. Why aren’t the accusers in sex crimes named just as in every other crime involving adults? What extra stigma is attached to the crime by failing to name the victim? There are persuasive arguments for naming all crime victims as a matter of course. None have proved compelling enough to tip the scales for the “legitimate” press.
It may be quaint in the Internet age, but the convention is to not name accusers of sex crimes unless they come forward themselves. They get a tough enough ride as it is. It ain’t much of a cloak, but society still takes the side of such protection while at the same time persecuting the women who come forward.