Central Michigan University, CMUPD, college, dorm room, email, ethics, feminism, journalism, Marie Reimers, Miss Representation, news, police department, press release, rape, SAPA, sex education, Student Government Association, victim blaming
Do I have to criticize everyone with the slightest ounce of authority on this campus? Apparently so. Last Sunday, a male student broke into a girls’ dorm room and attempted to rape (or raped? it’s not clear) another student. In this piece, I will talk about how the people from University Communications and the college newspaper CM Life dropped the ball. Oh, they reported the incident alright, but they left some void in regards to the information and made poor word choices.
This is the email every student received Monday morning, which ultimately set off a wildfire of anger.
Central Michigan University Police Department (CMUPD)
Subject: Residence hall students reminded to lock doors
During the early morning hours of Sunday, October 27th, a subject entered an unlocked residence hall room in Merrill Hall. The subject committed sexual assault and other simple assaults.
I was hoping for more clarity, because I still had questions about the incident. What exactly happened? Was the student raped or did the penetrator fail in doing so? What the hell does “fourth-degree sexual misconduct” mean? Don’t talk cop with me, speak English. I was disappointed when I read the second paragraph which seemed almost copied-and-pasted from the email, telling me what crimes he had committed (however, cleverly leaving out “simple assault”).
I am not happy with the headline, because it says, “Freshman arraigned on Merrill Hall assault charges,” and not “SEXUAL ASSAULT CHARGES.” For those who didn’t have clue about this incident, assault could have meant anything from punching a guy in the face to knife stabbing. They should have made that clear, and on a journalist’s stand-point, c’mon, you get more readers with a headline like that. “Freshman arraigned on Merril Hall sexual assault charges.” I’d read that article. Plus, that line came up three times; in the headline, it was the lead and it was right under the photograph.
Another thing that was really obnoxious:
And then — bare with me if I sound picky — they say the story continues on 2A, which is wrong; it goes on 6A. It’s a small thing, but it’s not a mistake that an award-winning newspaper should do and it happens more often than I like.
Look at what I marked in orange and read that first paragraph:
I don’t appreciate that the reporter used a quote for an entire paragraph for something he could have easily summarized. Not to mention, this quote is confusing. I was first told in the email that only two people were involved in the incident, now I’m hearing it was probably five people. And who is that witness? Where did he or she come from? Is it the person at the reception desk? As a reader, I shouldn’t have to go back and re-read parts of an article in order to puzzle everything together.
Then, looking at what I marked in red, they say that the penetrator has withdrawn from his classes. I’d like to know if he has moved. I don’t want to run into this motherfucker. I don’t want him living nearby. Please tell me that the court has ordered him to stay off the campus area.
The article improves a little bit towards the end when he reports on the email and the reactions to it. It’s not as redundant and confusing as the first half. Personally I would have only tweaked a few parts to make it more snappy.
I dearly hope that should something like this happen again, the people responsible for the PR and news sources will be more careful with what they say. I know we have to be unbiased, but showing empathy and understanding when you’re reporting and writing has never hurt any journalist’s career.