Columbia Student Paper: Our Coverage Of Rape Was One-Sided, Ignored Due Process by Alex Griswold
Well, here’s something you don’t see every day; in an op-ed for the Columbia University student paper, the paper’s former editor openly admits their coverage of a prominent campus rape accusation was skewed, because he feared being accused of opposing rape victims if he questioned the victim’s story.
Columbia student Emma Sulkowicz garnered national attention for carrying her mattress around campus in protest of the university’s refusal to punish and expel her rapist. Sulkowicz made the rounds on national media, attended the State of the Union with New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and inspired nationwide protests.
But the conversation shifted suddenly yesterday after The Daily Beast published an interview with the student she accused, rebutting many of her claims. In particular, he produced Facebook message records showing that Sukowicz was openly flirtatious and friendly with him months after he supposedly brutally raped her. “I love you Paul,” reads one such message, “Where are you?!?!?!?!”
In response to the piece, a former editor of The Columbia Daily Spectator, Daniel Garisto, wrote an op-ed for the paper “Better media coverage of sexual assault for survivors,” accepting blame for not telling the full story. “I think we—not just the opinion page, not just Spec—but we, the members of the campus media, failed specifically with Sulkowicz’s story by not being thorough and impartial.”
Garisto candidly admits that it was a fear of backlash that led to one-sided coverage. “Personally, I felt that if I covered the existence of a different perspective—say, that due process should be respected—not only would I have been excoriated, but many would have said that I was harming survivors and the fight against sexual assault.”
But despite the admission, Garisto still says that it is the media’s responsibility “to be true to a mission of supporting individual survivors.” He also still claims the accused male student “is probably guilty” and “is statistically guilty,” whatever that means.
“It is particularly when there are so few news outlets, in a small community like ours, that we need our media to do better,” he concludes, “for those who are accused, for the public, and most importantly, for survivors.”