KC Johnson on Biased Journalism in Sexual Assault Cases

July 22, 2013

Writing for Minding the Campus yesterday, Brooklyn College professor KC Johnson criticized the trend of journalists effectively presuming guilt of those accused of sexual assault in order to protect the feelings of their accusers. In his article, Johnson takes a close look at a Columbia Journalism Review piece by Alexis Sobel Fitts in which she directs journalists on the “right way to write about rape” while using problematic language herself: Fitts … offers the following advice to reporters: "Make sure your story won’t compromise the safety of the survivor. Also consider the perpetrator, especially if he or she hasn’t been convicted." How can an accused person be a "perpetrator" if he "hasn’t been convicted"? The CJR doesn’t explain. And does Fitts belief that the mere filing of a criminal complaint (or, in the case of most college allegations, not even filing a criminal complaint at all) transforms an accuser into a "survivor"? Read the rest of Johnson’s critique at Minding the Campus and see what Fitts herself had to say on Columbia Journalism Review’s website.