Boston University independent student paper apologizes after making light of rape

xoJane | The Daily Free Press | Boston Magazine

An anonymous Boston University student has written an xoJane piece accusing the university’s independent student newspaper, The Daily Free Press, of joking about rape.

The student says the Daily Free Press’ crime log regularly makes light of sexual harassment, rape and assault “by prefacing the paragraph-long descriptions of the incidents with jokey, pun-ridden titles.” She writes that she was sexually assaulted at Boston University her sophomore year and soon after “came across the horrifying, humiliating” way the paper depicted the incident in its crime log.

She provided some other examples, with commentary:

  • A man tried to break into a female BU student’s on-campus dorm via her balcony. The classy title of this traumatizing incident that could have ended in theft/rape/kidnapping/murder? “Where for art thou, creepy dude?”
  • A man was beaten to the ground and had his head stomped on until he was unconscious and bleeding. “Stomp the yard.” I am sure the victim and his family are touched by this sweet, concerned commentary on his life-threatening injuries in the form of a Ne-Yo movie.
  • A female BU student was pushed over on the street and held down to have her genitals photographed by a stranger. “Trashford.” You know, a fun, in-joke pun, because it happened on Ashford Street which is inhabited by many BU students and therefore said to be fratty/trashy?! So funny! Like, seriously, give this writer a promotion! The victim will totally forget her trauma and feelings of dehumanization to congratulate you on your funny thing!
  • A female BU student’s door to her dorm room was vandalized with racial slurs. “Haters gonna hate.” Yes, I do hate you, you ignorant, thoughtless person whom I refuse to call a “writer.”
  • A female BU student was domestically abused and choked by her boyfriend. “Choked up.”

The Daily Free Press’ Board of Directors Chairman Alex Nawar responded Thursday with an apology, acknowledging the paper “has repeatedly published callous sub-headlines making light of serious issues and indadvertedly exploiting victims of crime for humor.”

The apology goes on to say:

Though Crime Logs have traditionally aimed to satirize harmless, victimless crimes, these examples demonstrate a lack of sensitivity and empathy on the part of several editors. As with all our content, our editorial staff accepts full responsibility for the offensive sub-headlines and asks that writers not be blamed for the mistakes of their editors. Going forward, the Free Press will publish Crime Logs with only serious headlines, in an effort to keep our student population aware of criminal activity and to give victims their due respect. We are updating past sub-headlines to reflect our new standards.

Nawar said the paper plans to begin asking new editors to take “mandatory sensitivity training” at the beginning of each semester.

The Daily Free Press has been criticized in the past for its coverage of sexual assault and misogyny, Boston Magazine reports.

In 2011, the newspaper printed an April 1 publication for April Fool’s Day, which used Disney characters to create fake stories about rape and other crimes. The backlash from the paper [led] the then-editor to step down from her post, and issue an apology on behalf of the staff.

Journalists have an opportunity to tell important stories about sexual assault and rape — stories that highlight struggles, create hope and help others feel less alone. But, as we’ve seen time and time again, they’ve also used language that lessens the seriousness of the crime, assigns blame and causes harm to victims. It remains an ongoing challenge.

Earlier this week, Columbia Journalism Review offered some helpful tips for improving rape coverage.

Related training: https://www.newsu.org/courses/covering-sexual-assault“>News University’s course on reporting on sexual violence

We have made it easy to comment on posts, however we require civility and encourage full names to that end (first initial, last name is OK). Please read our guidelines here before commenting.