Friday, January 08, 2010

Breaking news (by Suzie)

Too many media reports of men committing violence against women get reduced to a “battle of the sexes,” as if both sides shared blame equally. I’m going to take you through one such story.

Monday, a newspaper threw some breaking news on its Web site, with the headline: “Domestic dispute leads to modified lockdown at Riverview High School." The first paragraph (called the lede) said:
A war of words between an estranged couple, that included a threat against their teenage son, resulted in a manhunt by two agencies and a lockdown of Riverview High School, authorities said this morning.
Later, the newspaper would report “investigators” saying the man had threatened to go to the school to kill the son. Why not just say that in the first place? Why write as if this were a mutual fight? I’ve known journalists who thought women share the blame when men turn violent. It’s also quite possible that the writer had only a jumble of facts at first, and was trying to get out the news without libeling anyone. This is equivalent to an initial report that a man got killed in a bar fight, before you know who was the aggressor. Despite knowing this, despite knowing that newspapers are short-handed these days, I still cringed when I read the first story.

When the newspaper had more information, it wrote over the original story, and you can still see it only in a search. The next day, the newspaper dispensed with the idea of a dispute and gave the facts as reported by the police: The man was served with a domestic-violence injunction early Monday. He then went to his wife’s workplace and waited.
Hernandez confronted her with a pistol in his waistband, police said, and threatened to kill her. He grabbed her and tried to force her into his pickup, but she escaped.
Another employee saw the confrontation in the parking lot and said he was going to call police. Hernandez fled, police said.

A family friend said Hernandez had called to say he was driving to Riverview High School to kill his son.
From what I can tell from a search, the newspaper’s competitor was later on the story, but had more facts. Each newspaper had at least one reader suggesting the woman might have been to blame. I wonder where they got that idea?