At Least 200,000 People Want CNN to Apologize for Its Sympathetic Steubenville Coverage

The Atlantic

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Remember the CNN broadcast a few days ago, when Candy Crowley and friends bemoaned the fates of the Steubenville rapists? That didn't go over well, and nearly a quarter million people want the network to do something about it. In the two days since the verdict was read, a Change.org petition asking for CNN to make an on-air apology — okay, several on-air apologies —  has gained over 215,000 signatures and looked to be on track to reach the self-assigned goal of 300,000 in a matter of hours. In other words, a lot of people are not happy with how CNN covered the Steubenville trial, and they're not going to forget about it any time soon.

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If you're just catching up on CNN's Steubenville coverage, you've come to right place. We've been following the Steubenville rape case closely for a few weeks now and know all too well how divisive its been. The trial and immediate aftermath turned nothing short of nasty at times, which is precisely why man news organization handled the verdict with kid gloves. The formula for fair coverage was pretty simple. Step one: stick to the facts. Step two: don't sympathize with convicted rapists. Step three: definitely, absolutely, don't even think about revealing the identity of the victim on national television.

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As we pointed out the night of the verdict, CNN didn't do so well with those simple steps. Fact-wise, few had complaints about CNN telling the truth. It was how they told it that's stirred nationwide anger. Correspondent Poppy Harlow's report from Steubenville ruffled a lot of feathers, after she waxed compassionate in speaking about how the convicted rapists "that had promising futures, star football players, very good students, literally watched as they believed their lives fell apart." The whole segment more or less follows that vein of reasoning with the other two on-air personalities saying similar things, and the Internet was not happy about that. The wheels really flew off the reason wagon later that day, when CNN revealed the name of the victim on air.

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So now people want the network to apologize. A lot of people want this. The petition's stated request — "apologize on-air, several times over the course of the next week, at the start of every hour" — is a little extreme. At a basic level, however, it's hard to understand why CNN wouldn't feel compelled to address the backlash. Then again, CNN doesn't do everything right, well, ever

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