There's been a lot of ink spilled over Cody Wilson, founder of Defense Distributed, a non-profit with the goal of making plans for 3D printed guns and gun parts available for free on the Internet. Most of the reason for everyone's interest is that it involves a new technology—3D printing—because people have been making firearms at home for a very long time, and it's generally legal, as long as you don't sell the weapon or give it to someone else1.
Wilson, a law student, is articulate about his anarchist leanings, which makes the right-wing support of his effort seem a little strange, but politics will do that. He argues that liberty is a positive right and therefore can only be restricted with cause. In a documentary and an interview Wilson raises some interesting and potentially important points about personal freedom and the ability of the Internet to empower people. And I find myself agreeing with him a lot.
Part of his grand experiment is to show the futility of the government trying to ban items, and it's a point well taken. He's being deliberately provocative, especially with his printing of a functional handgun , but it is having the effect of giving him a wider audience for his views—and when was the last time you heard an anarchist being taken seriously in the media?
But despite the support he's found from some people, Wilson is trying to solve a non-existent problem—that of access to firearms in the U.S. We saw a few weeks ago that the Senate is unwilling or unable to do anything to strengthen gun laws, let alone take on the concept of banning even some types of guns outright. Wilson originally was making high-capacity magazines to show that banning them would be useless, but the government has proven it doesn't even want to do that.
I'm curious to see how Wilson's work will affect other nations, especially affluent ones with much stricter gun regulations. Because right now, a standard desktop 3D printer simply isn't good enough to produce a working, reliable firearm—for that you need a much more expensive industrial model—and even if it were, most desktop 3D printers are still beyond the reach of most people in the developing world. Although, as we've seen, Syrian rebels are making their own weapons, though using traditional machines like lathes and milling machines.
I question the ethics of what Wilson is doing. I don't think he's done anything illegal, and don't even know if what he's doing should be illegal. But that doesn't make it ethically correct. Just because there's a market for something doesn't make it ethical to serve that market. He's testing the limits of liberty, and that is a good thing, but he's also helping to enable conspiracy theorists and people with an agenda that looks less like giving more liberty to everyone and taking liberty from everyone but themselves. That makes me uncomfortable.
And this isn't about my opinion on guns—governments have an interest in the security of their nation, and the idea of a 3D printed gun could go a long way toward undermining that2.
There are a lot of problems in the world to be solved, and technology like 3D printing might hold some of the answers3. I think Wilson would be a better world citizen if he were addressing those problems, even if they didn't bring him the attention he's now enjoying.
1: Part of this is that fact that most media—not just tabloids—focus on the novel and the potentially shocking. I have a long post coming on that. Eventually. ↩
2: Maybe. Potentially. Someday. Because although Wilson has put more than 600 rounds through one of his AR-15 lower receivers, that’s a long way from being able to print a complete, reliable, safe to operate gun. That could prove to be beyond the realm of what’s possible given the plastic used. We don’t know yet. ↩
3: I realize this comes perilously close to a false dilemma, but I stand by it. It’s worthwhile and valid to examine or at least question why people choose one problem to solve and not another. ↩
I'm thinking about this primarily in terms of a Big News Story (e.g. the Boston Marathon bombing and subsequent manhunt), but I think it might work in a larger context, as well. But for simplicity we'll focus here on breaking news.
First to define our terms. By distracted I mean that we are thinking only about the newest information coming in, not thinking about putting events in a larger context, and not thinking about the implication of the information we're receiving. By engaged I mean nearly the opposite: That we're trying to understand not just the event, but it's larger causes, implications and where it fits in our conception of the world. If that sounds like an idea way of processing events, maybe it is, but I would argue we can't get to engaged at first, especially when information is brand new to us. There is a reason that most news organizations now put up liveblogs that collect information from many different places as a story starts to break, and then only hours, days, or weeks later are able to put together a coherent narrative. We need information before we can draw conclusions.
But if you're not a journalist, you don't necessarily need to see all of the information as it comes in, so why would it be helpful when, since you can't put it into context, but only consume it as it comes, thereby distracting you?
I would argue that the distraction is a manifestation of a cognitive shutdown. You could easily turn off the TV, ignore Twitter, and go about your life, but in some ways, you feel more connected with the world around you by experiencing an event in real time (or at least nearly so). That distraction soothes you and keeps you from thinking too deeply about the tragedy when your mind isn't ready to process it. It's a tool or a survival technique that our brains use to keep us from processing difficult information until we're ready to do so. We seek out an information overload so we don't have to think about the larger implications, which seems counter-intuitive, but is self-evident even from the way we talk about the stream of news that breaks over us. Once we are, we can become engaged again, and start thinking about putting the events into context.
All of this is good—or at least OK—as long as we're aware of what's happening. The problems start when we confuse distraction with engagement. That is to say, when we take all of the information presented to us and regurgitate it without regard to its usefulness, context, or provenance. Let's call that “Cable News Talking Head Syndrome.” When fool ourselves into thinking we're engaged with an event when in fact we're just amplifying our distractions is a dangerous time.
Despite the numerous tweets and stories since Monday, when the Boston Marathon bombing saga began, breaking news isn't broken—or at least, it's no more broken than it's ever been.
That's not to say the coverage of the bombing, manhunt and arrests weren't in some cases terrible. CNN did a particularly excreable job. But why does that surprise us? CNN does a terrible job covering a lot of breaking news, even when it's low-impact stuff like a disabled cruise ship1. Remember how badly they bungled the 2000 election calls, moving Florida from one column to the other instead of just admitting that they didn't know? Let's take it as read that filling a 24-hour network with news is extremely difficult and a job I'd be unwilling to take, even if I were qualified to do so. And let's also take as read the fact that covering breaking news is really hard in a lot of ways.
The problems that CNN and other 24-hour networks had (and indeed, none of them had a banner week) are just magnified versions of the problems that everyone has always had when covering a quickly developing story.
There is a lot of incorrect information floating around, especially at the beginning of a big breaking news story. With newspapers, you might not necessarily see that, because it could be corrected in the print edition. But for TV news, which fears dead air above all things, that incorrect information finds its way in and has to be corrected later.
Breaking news is by turns terrifying, exhilarating, stressful and extraordinary boring. There are large stretches of time when you don't know anything new. That's OK, unless you're running a 24-hour news feed. Then you have to find something to fill the time. And too often it's either baseless speculation or just plain bad information.
There are a lot more news sources now, and they deliver often conflicting results. If you're getting those conflicting reports while on air, it isn't easy to figure out which are more reliable. And if you're getting news on Twitter, you have to worry about not only if it came from a reliable source, but if the person re-tweeting something got it from a reliable source. It's uncertainty all the way down.
Speaking of Twitter, it's another factor in why you're seeing the mistakes that once would have been invisible to you. Choire Sicha, who still has the best name on the Internet, suggests that over-zealous social media editors and twittering reporters are part of the problem. He rightly points out that some of the tweets coming from major news organizations sounded a lot like the things you'd hear if you were in a newsroom. That includes speculation and a bit of kvetching. And some were just tweeting the things that they saw on TV, especially cable news networks. Sicha is right that doing that fails the signal to noise ratio test. And plenty of people on Twitter, journalists and non-journalists alike, were live-tweeting scanner traffic. I understand why people just interested in the events would do something like that—they don't know any better. But for a journalist to do that is inexcusable. Scanner traffic is notoriously unreliable, and most journalists know anything they here on the scanner needs to be verified.
But despite the doom and gloom, plenty of organizations did a good job covering the bombing, the manhunt, the tense Friday lockdown and the eventual capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The Boston Globe did truly amazing work. Unsurpring, since it's a great paper and it was a hometown story2. NPR also did a fantastic job, keeping speculation to a minimum, sharing insight from people affected by the lockdown, and putting things into context. And Steve Inskeep of Morning Edition even tweeted some very wise words.
We are collecting dots. It’s a day to be careful about connecting them.
That tweet speaks to the larger tension here: People (and news organizations) want two mutually exclusive things—reliable, true, well-sourced information and a constant flow of updates that turn into a larger narrative about the event. Some places did a really good job of walking that line, but it always will require compromises. Reuters, the Globe, the New York Times and the Washington Post all had good liveblogs that updated regularly with new information and helped put things into context. There were errors, but they were corrected quickly.
But I don't want this to be about winners and losers. Rather than focusing solely the mistakes that were made (there were a lot of them), it's more productive to realize that the way we report and consume the news is changing quickly. News organizations will find their way (except the New York Post, which remains among the most reprehensible news organizations on the planet today). Until we reach that golden age (hint: that would be never), it's worthwhile to talk about what news consumers can do to stay well informed.
Turn off the TV. Seriously. A cable news network will almost never do the best job at covering a breaking news story like this. While they'll have the best visuals, they'll also have really poor analysis and a lot of speculation. If you must watch TV, do so in short doses.
Figure out what you're looking for. Do you want quick updates, larger context, photos or video of the scene or something else? Let what you're looking for guide your choices.
Find one source that's reliable and stick with it. Don't forget about local and regional media—they'll often (but by no means always) do a better job than anyone else at covering the events.
On Twitter find some reliable people to follow and be wary of re-tweets of new information, especially from non-news sources. I saw one tweet from Anonymous that, unsurprisingly, ended up being false. Anonymous is great at a lot of stuff, but not being a news organization. Treat tweets like that with all the skepticism they deserve, and be especially wary of any account that's reporting something quite different from other reports you've seen.
If you're using Twitter, don't be a dick and be careful about what you re-tweet, especially if you have a lot of followers. It can be exciting to feel like you're sharing important information, but always consider the source. And if you re-tweet something that ends up being false, retract it as quickly as you can.
If you're a reporter using Twitter, think before you post. If that seems obvious, it wasn't necessarily followed very well this week. Think about whether your information is verified, if it adds anything to the conversation, and if it's something you have direct knowledge of, rather than being second (or third, or fourth) hand.
Don't be afraid to step away. If you let Fear of Missing Out take over, you aren't doing yourself a favor. As much as we'd all like to know what happens as soon as it does, that doesn't mean we need to. Accept that you'll miss some things and catch up with them later. This isn't a contest to see who can be most informed most quickly.
There were mistakes made by social media, newspapers, TV channels and just about anyone else who was trying to cover the Boston bombings and the hunt for the Tsarnaev brothers. But those mistakes are part of the process, and are just more obvious now than they would have been five, 10 or even 25 years ago. As Mathew Ingram points out, breaking news isn't broken, it's evolving, and it's up to us to help it along.
And the Future Journalism Project reminds us that the way news is put together isn't pretty, but we're better off knowing it. They also offer some really useful pointers on following breaking news while staying sane.
As Twitter becomes a major means of communicating breaking news stories, the demands on media consumers are increasing. It's no longer enough to just assume what's on TV or in the newspaper is accurate. Now consumers have to do some of the critical thinking themselves. And if that's the only thing that comes out of this, it's still a positive development.
1: We won’t get in to why CNN covers stories like that in the first place, and instead leave it for another time. ↩
2: Seriously, if they don’t win a Pulitzer for breaking news coverage, that would be a travesty. But it wouldn’t be the first such travesty. ↩
Matt DeRienzo has some great pieces about how one paper in Connecticut, the Republican-American, has been bunglinghandling the accusations of rape in Torrington, Conn.. After labeling the rape a tryst, which implies consent, even though the court documents show one of the victims said “No” repeatedly, the Republican-American published an editorial suggesting that we should hold the victims and their parents accountable for “putting themselves in harm's way” and for dressing provocatively. After all, the editorial suggests, the young men responded in a predictable way.
Predictable? Sadly, yes. But that is the fault of the young men who acted that way, not the girls—and at 13 years old, they are, indeed, girls—who were raped. I'm getting quick sick of this idea that boys and young men are incapable of helping themselves when they are aroused. These are not unthinking animals, these are human beings. Not every young man put into that situation would rape a girl. The young men now accused of rape made a decision; they didn't act on instinct.
Every time a media outlet proposes that a rape victim should have been more careful, didn't belong where she was, or was dressed in such a way to provoke the assault, it sends a very clear message: That in some circumstances rape is acceptable, or nearly so. To blame the parents of the victims for not exercising proper discipline ignores the much larger question: Why weren't the young men taught not to engage in sex with someone who said no?
Journalism has an important role to play here. Reporters and editors can make it clear that a rape victim's clothing, location, alcohol intake and sexual history have no bearing on whether the incident was rape. They can help reinforce the definition of rape, and make it clear that having sex with someone who doesn't consent, or in the case of Steubenville, can't consent, is rape. And they can educate the public that bullying and shaming a rape victim is unacceptable.
DeRienzo and the Register Citizen are doing their part by exposing the identities of those who would bully a victim into silence. We need more like them, and far, far fewer like the Republican-American's editorial board.
CNN and the Associated Press should already know this, but hardly anyone will remember if you were first to get the story right, and hardly anyone will forget if you were first and got the story wrong.
And talk about wrong: Having someone under arrest is a binary state—either law enforcement officials have someone in custody or they don't. And in this case, despite repeated claims from CNN and the AP, there was no one in custody.
As Amy Davidson perfectly puts it in the above-linked New Yorker blog post:
There was a moment, between two and three o’clock on Wednesday, when the phrase “conflicting reports” seemed inadequate to describe the coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing investigation.
The reports and their conflicting nature prompted a surprisingly sharp statement from the FBI pointing out the unintended consequences of reports like the AP and CNN's, and the ones yesterday, repeated by Fox News, CNN, and the New York Post that a Saudi Arabian man was a suspect in the bombing. He was not; he was one of the more than 100 wounded, and was tackled by an overzealous bystander because he was fleeing the scene. Which, obviously, was the right thing to do.
I understand the drive to be first. Journalism is a competitive business, and being the first one to report something can be a major advantage, at least in the short run. But a police reporter on his first major case wouldn't make some of the mistakes journalists and the AP and CNN (among many others) made this week. It makes me wonder who, exactly, the sources they were relying on why, and what those journalists must have done to make the sources so angry.
The idea that the FBI proposed. trying to get confirmation from official sources, is laughable. Journalists aren't supposed to wait around and be spoon-fed the official story. A vigorous media finds and follows leads outside what police or FBI officials talk about publicly, and that's an important part of the media's role in society. But accuracy counts. There is enough confusion and misinformation circulating during a big story like the Boston marathon bombing, which makes it all the more important for news organizations to not just be first, but the first to be right.
How much coverage is too much, and when does the saturation of coverage of an event like the Boston Marathon bombing inadvertently serve the goals of the attackers? It's an excellent question asked by Kate Gardiner about the coverage of the explosion on Monday.
I wonder how much we’ve rewarded the bomber(s) by inundating them with coverage.
My reply was simple—perhaps simplistic, actually—we need to draw a line between informing the public and exploiting the victims of this attack. But neither she nor I really know where that line is.
The distribution of news has fundamentally changed in the nearly 12 years since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. It isn't worthwhile to list all of the changes, but the rise of mobile phones with video cameras and social media—especially Twitter—have made an already ravenous appetite for instant updates nearly insatiable.
That leaves us with a few questions.
First, is that appetite healthy? Hell if I know. I'm really not sure. People much smarter than I am have made persuasive arguments about too much information being bad for you. But the appetite exists, and is rooted in simple human curiosity. From a purely practical perspective, it barely matters. You would be hard pressed to find a news organization willing to sit a story as big as the Boston explosion out, even if it's nowhere near the Northeast. And even if one organization did, there are innumerable other sources where people can turn.
Not everyone agrees with that proposition, of course. Some think that the coverage is too much, and that it actually impedes our understanding. I'm not sure. The 24-hour news cycle—which is much older than the Internet, let's not forget—wouldn't exist if people weren't consuming that information. News networks need to be more responsible, yes, but I don't think too much information is the problem. The problem is not enough good information. Too many anchors and commentators simply talk to fill up time, and the speculation that engenders is not helpful.
Media consumers need to be careful as they decide what to consume. Cable news has a lot of advantages, but too often offers baseless speculation to fill time. And while the Internet has made it so much easier to share news, it also allows misinformation to spread at the same speed. Consumers need to be as cautious and skeptical about unverified reports as journalists should be.
That leads us to the next question: How can a news organization share information in a responsible way? There is a difference between covering a car crash and enabling people to gawk at one. So too is there a difference between keeping people informed and exploiting a tragedy to drive pageviews. I think Gardiner, along with a lot of other people I follow on Twitter, actually did a good job. They see massive amounts of information in their feeds, and they pass along information that has been verified or seems important. That includes locations of coverage for people following the news and information that could be important to people actually in Boston. I think that serves as a very good model for how to cover something like this on Twitter. And the Boston Globe did a really terrific job pulling together a story quickly that answers the questions it can and explains why it can't answer others yet.
And to the final question, which is also the first that was asked: Are we serving the bombers' ends with constant coverage? The answer is a resounding “maybe” with a side of I'm not sure it matters. Journalists have a duty to cover tragedies like this responsibly. That means something different than it would have a decade or more ago. But the key word is responsibly. Journalists and commentators need to be clear about what they know and what they don't know, and put what they do know into perspective. If they do that, even if it is what the attackers want, they've done their job.
The Associated Press announced this month that from now on, “illegal immigrant” is no longer the correct style. It's a change that's been a long time coming, and one that could have a major impact on the debate over immigration. And it's the correct move because it offers reporters a chance to clarify and inform, rather than inflame.
Perhaps not surprisingly, not everyone is thrilled with the change. At the New Republic, John McWhorter writes that it's a crime against logic, because people who enter the U.S. without proper permission are, prima facie, illegal immigrants, and that we use adjectives like “convicted” to describe people already.
His argument that the basis of the change is the slogan that “A person shouldn't be called illegal” is a straw man, though. The change in style has the effect of being more humane, but there are other good reasons, as well.
First, the AP already recommends using language that describes rather than damns. A good example: someone uses a wheelchair, they aren't confined to a wheelchair.
And that applies to crimes, as well. For the most part, despite what McWhorter says, in most cases, someone wouldn't be referred to as a “drunk driver.” Before trial a reporter would write that a person was accused of drunken driving, and after conviction, that a person was convicted of drunken driving. The larger point is that the word illegal should be applied to the action that is against the law, which is what the AP now recommends.
The Stylebook no longer sanctions the term “illegal immigrant” or the use of “illegal” to describe a person. Instead, it tells users that “illegal” should describe only an action, such as living in or immigrating to a country illegally.
So instead of illegal immigrant—or worse simply “illegal,” which despite McWhorter's protests is a slur, and a clear one at that, because it refers not to an action but the entirety of a person's existence—a reporter would write about someone entering the U.S. illegally. Changing that doesn't imply approval of the act, it just brings the language more in line with the rest of the AP's style.
There are extreme cases in which a description is applied to a person instead of an action. Mcwhorter gives the example of a serial killer.
To frame it as that illegal immigrant is a “slur” requires that on principle we apply the same judgment to, say, serial killer (what about the times in between murders when he isn’t killing anyone?).
But, of course, no reporter would call someone a serial killer until that person had been convicted. And that's without mentioning the not-so-subtle false equivalence between serial murder and illegal immigration. Both actions are against the law, but there is an enormous difference of scale, and one is a criminal action, while the other is against civil law.
The best reason for the change is that it allows a clarification of what, exactly, is going on. Just as journalists are not supposed to convict people accused of crimes with their words, they are now supposed to attribute any accusation of someone entering the country illegally, as well as to clarify the specifics of each case.
Do not describe people as violating immigration laws without attribution.
Specify wherever possible how someone entered the country illegally and from where. Crossed the border? Overstayed a visa? What nationality?
Those are all important questions, and they help actually inform people. And despite protestations from McWhorter in Time about political correctness—a phrase so overused that it is essentially meaningless and can be marshaled against any effort to make language more humane and accurate—that information, provided in clear, accurate language, is essential.
In both articles, McWhorter presupposes that any change in language about immigration must be an effort to change the way people think about immigration, and to question the rightness of immigration law as it now stands, But that isn't necessarily the case. Some of the key aims of journalism—fairness, accuracy, and clarity—are all served by this change, and that's enough to make it the correct decision, without delving into the debate over immigration itself.
Immigration is a serious topic, and it deserves a serious discussion. By removing loaded terms and pejoratives from news stories, the new AP policy will help facilitate that serious discussion.
Apparently CNN is denying any slant toward the rapists in its coverage of the Steubenville, Ohio rape trial, and the reporter involved is offended anyone would think she supports rapists.
Fair enough—I seriously doubt she does support rapists, and I doubt that she thinks rape is a good thing. But it doesn't change the fact that within a minute of appearing on camera, she talks about how emotional it was to watch two boys believe they were watching their lives crumble before their eyes. Let's go to the video tape.
(Start at 1:15)
I'm sure it was a very emotional moment, and there is some journalistic value in describing the defendants' reactions. But, as I pointed out before, this crosses that line. It makes her appear to be much more concerned with the impact of a rape on the men who committed it than on the young woman who was raped.
And indeed, she highlights the pat, almost rote apology from Trent Mays (who apologized for taking and sending nude pictures of the young woman, not for raping her). CNN also showed Ma'Lik Richardson breaking down in the courtroom. Perhaps he is truly sorry. But being sorry doesn't change the fact that he raped someone.
Finally, by emphasizing that the parties where Mays and Richardson raped the young woman were fueled by alcohol, she brings in one of the oldest ways to blame the victim—if she hadn't been drinking none of this would have happened. In fact, alcohol is used both to blame the victim and excuse the behavior of the rapists—they were drunk, as well. It's a pretty tidy example of the double standard: She's less sympathetic because she was drunk, but the rapists are more sympathetic because they were out of control and did something they might not have done while sober.
But it doesn't wash. What happened was rape. Full stop.
CNN would be wise to actually read the Change.Org petition, understand what they did wrong, and work toward being more supportive of victims and less supportive of rapists.
Have you always wanted to be the editor so you can order the rest of the newsroom around while challenging the community with your extreme political views? Then this isn't the job for you. Instead, we're looking for an editor who knows how to tell good stories—the kind people will always make time to read—from breaking news to heartwarming features to in-depth reports.
High praise indeed for Horne, who'd been out the door for fewer than three weeks. It's another sad but not surprising sign that community journalism—the kind where so many reporters and editors learn their craft—is often no longer concerned with standing up for the public's right to know, no longer interested in holding elected officials to account, and no longer interested in the kind of journalism that can actually change a community.
(The next front page story in the Scout)
Standing for openness, access and accountability are not extreme political views. They are, or they should be, the very foundation of a local newspaper. Shame on Brown for betraying that, and shame on any other editor, publisher or owner who would do the same.
And perhaps the saddest part is that the damage—if, indeed, there was any—is already done. Anything Brown does now won't have any effect on the people who'd decided the paper wanted to come for their guns. All it does is tell the people who had supported the paper before and the rest of the journalism community, that there is no principle Brown will hold to, given the right amount of pressure. That's a sad message to send and an even sadder one to receive.
A friend of mine asked an insightful question on Tumblr about how we've gotten to the point where young men would feel that raping an unconscious woman is acceptable.
The concept of rape is unfathomable to me: I can’t wrap my brain around what would drive a man to put his penis into something that wasn’t actively interested in having a penis put into it. What drives a person, seeing an unconscious person, to think “you know what sounds like a good idea? Putting my penis into that person.”
Where did we fall apart as a society to a degree where shoving your dong into people became a thing? Where our sexual response is so screwed up that uninterested people give us raging boners? Have we gotten ourselves so twisted up with sexual taboos and edicts that we demonize consensual behavior and give genuinely fucked up actions a pass? Are dudes being somehow taught that the world somehow owes them orgasms? That they’re out there, waiting to be plucked from a tree like a piece of fruit?
Am I missing some critical part of male upbringing that was supposed to condition me to get aroused in the presence of unwilling partners?
Sadly, it is not at all inconceivable to many people. More than 200,000 people are raped each year, and that's despite the fact rape has decreased by more than 60 percent since 1993.
Think about that for a second: Even with historic declines in rape, one person is sexually assaulted every two minutes in the United States.
So rape is certainly conceivable to so very many people. And the punishment they face is often non-existent. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network and U.S. Justice Department statistics, 97 percent of rapists never spend a day in prison. Perhaps that's one of the reasons a CNN anchor felt such sympathy for the two Stuebenville boys sentenced for raping a 16-year-old: A trial, let alone a conviction and sentence, is vanishingly
rare in cases of rape and sexual assault.
And part of that is because of the attitudes we've seen around the Stuebenville case. The Public Shaming tumblr pointed to a lot of reactions blaming the victim for drinking, dressing provocatively, and for simply being present. One even suggested that Mays and Richmond did what any man would do when presented with an unconscious woman: they assaulted her. Thankfully every man does not act that way, but too many do. And they're defended for doing so. One blog post (which I'm refusing to link to—trolls thrive on links) suggested that the fact the victim was drinking, dressed provocatively, and around young men meant that her consent was implied.
That is the logical equivalent of suggesting that someone driving on New Year's Eve who is killed by a drunk driver was asking to be killed because he or she should have known better than to be out when it was dangerous.
All of this falls under the idea of Rape Culture, where sexual assault is common, rarely punished, and treated as a minor offense. And when news organizations lament sentences for rapists as life ruining—even when they're really no such thing, as the pair will spend one to two years in juvenile detention, and at most be held through their 21st birthdays (they are 16 and 17 now), and Ohio's adult justice system prescribes a minimum sentence of five years for rape—they are contributing to that culture.
A responsible media organization, and as much as this truly pains me to say, a good example of that in this case is Gawker, would point out that the true solution to rape isn't for women to stay home, stay sober, and dress in whatever passes for conservatively, it's for people not to rape other people. And it would make clear that no matter how drunk, or how she was dressed, or what the situation is, a woman has the absolute and total right not to be raped. That should be the lesson the Stuebenville story is teaching the world. Instead, thanks to CNN and legions of Internet rape apologists, we're left with the same backward, misogynistic ideas we've always had.