Unnecessary detail in a news story

Opening sentence of a story on the Evening Times site:

A sex beast raped a 16-year-old virgin while he was on the run from jail.

OK, they’re going for emotive, but what relevance is the victim’s virginity? Would the crime be less severe if she weren’t a virgin?

16 thoughts on “Unnecessary detail in a news story

  1. Mr. Mac says:

    What if the victim had been a 40-year-old virgin?

    Would the “sex beast” be seen to be doing the victim a favour? Throwing a dog a bone so to speak?

    I thought there was a responsibility to simply report the news and sub-editors were employed specifically to remove bias / emotive language etc from articles?

    Or are those days over and I just missed the announcement?

  2. Jennifer says:

    D’you think Frankenstein’s monster had a… well, a “part”?

    I mean down there. Did the Doctor administer a willy I mean.

    It’s been troubling me.

    Anyway, please carry on…

  3. Squander Two says:

    Well, it doesn’t change the nastiness of the crime, but it does have an effect on our perception of the victim, and rightly so. Being raped isn’t exactly nice for anyone, but I believe it’s worse if it’s the victim’s first ever sex.

  4. Kyle MacRae says:

    She was also “a bright pupil at a fee-paying school” (as opposed to a thicko at a state school, presumably). Is that legitimate reporting? At least they stopped short of adding “pretty”.

  5. Gary says:

    I genuinely don’t know, which is why I’m asking. I guess I’m reading too much into it, but it seems that there’s an unpleasant subtext to the way the Times reports things sometimes.

  6. tm says:

    Well I think Jo’s right, but even so is it really neccessary to put it in the line at all?

    Most of us who post here can be pretty cynical at the best of times but I’d be surprised if even we were to automatically assume that a girl who has reached 16 has been going at it hammer and tongs with her boyfriends(s) for the last four years or so.

    I think that word in that sentence really is just a cynical attempt to increase the shock value…

  7. mupwangle says:

    Why would you need to let a guy who is in the middle of a 10 year sentence out (by himself) to go to an alcoholics anonymous meeting? Surely he wouldn’t get the opportunity to drink for another 5 years? And if you thought he was at risk of falling off the wagon – why let him go by himself and give him money?

  8. mupwangle says:

    It also begs the question of what counts as a dangerous prisoner if attempted murder gets you an open prison, attempted on a policeman to boot.

  9. Gary says:

    I think that word in that sentence really is just a cynical attempt to increase the shock value

    That’s my gut feeling too, although if they were being really cynical they’d have put it in the headline to sell more papers.

    Why would you need to let a guy who is in the middle of a 10 year sentence out (by himself) to go to an alcoholics anonymous meeting?

    Aren’t there AA meetings, or at least sponsors, in prison?

  10. Squander Two says:

    > Why would you need to let a guy who is in the middle of a 10 year sentence out (by himself) to go to an alcoholics anonymous meeting?

    Because you never thought in 1997 that you were going to hang on to power for this long, so assumed that the lack of prison places that all your experts told you was coming unless you built some prisons was going to be someone else’s problem, so didn’t build any prisons and spent the money on your non-vital pet projects instead.

    > I’d be surprised if even we were to automatically assume that a girl who has reached 16 has been going at it hammer and tongs

    But the fact that we wouldn’t assume anything is precisely the problem. If the victim had been eleven or forty-one, we would make assumptions — and probably correct ones — about whether she was a virgin. With a sixteen-year-old, we simply can’t know: might never have kissed, could have two kids. So the word does actually add information to the report that would, for most other age groups, usually be implicit anyway.

    > I think that word in that sentence really is just a cynical attempt to increase the shock value

    Yeah, but you know what? Why not increase the shock value? As David’s pointed out, we seem to have reached a stage where crime isn’t as punished as most people would like it to be and alcoholic would-be murderers are let out of prison unsupervised half-way through their sentence. Since we live in a democracy, we have only ourselves — the electorate — to blame. Increasing the shock value of these sadly not particularly rare reports might cause the readers to be shocked enough to demand change at the next election.

    I’d also point out that, assuming the details they’re reporting are true, they’re only increasing the shock value of the report, not the crime. Any increase in shock value is bringing the report up to the genuine shock value of the crime, not inflating it beyond that.

  11. sunshine says:

    are you nuts? the 16-year-old girl got raped by what, a 35-year-old, and you people think that she’s going at it with her so called boyfreinds, that is crazy, she was a virgin, and maybe she was saving it for someone specail

  12. mupwangle says:

    Nobody is suggesting anything of the sort.

    This discussion was about how a pretty horrible crime was reported in the paper, not the crime itself. No-one has said anything derogatory about the girl at all, and quite rightly so. The question was whether the language used in the Evening Times was appropriate.

    I’m pretty sure that everyone here has the deepest sympathy for the girl and just wishes that this hadn’t been allowed to happen at all.

    Please read the comments above before shouting at people for stuff they haven’t said.

    Personally, I hope they shoot the bastard in the nuts.

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