The vast majority of the newspaper articles written about Title IX law and sexual misconduct in the higher education setting are stilted, one-sided, and overly-simplistic. Most focus exclusively on the trauma suffered by alleged victims, with the hidden thesis that schools are not doing enough to protect them from misconduct. The few others tend to trumpet the need for due process for students accused of misconduct.
An article in a local southwestern Connecticut newspaper, however, displays an impressive understanding of the nuanced subject, and a willingness to engage with both sides of the contentious topic without unduly judging either.
Local Newspaper Article Finally Provides Satisfying Analysis of Title IX Law
The article, “Campus sexual assault investigations pose challenges for colleges,” was published in The Hour, a daily local newspaper with a circulation of 15,000 serving Norwalk, Connecticut.
Like many other articles on Title IX law, the piece centers on the experience of one college student at Fairfield University who claims that she was raped back in 2018. She relates the difficulties she experienced and the mental health struggles that came with what she went through. She was ostracized from her friends, struggles to sleep, and has symptoms of anxiety.
The vast majority of other newspaper articles on the subject take this beginning and run with it: Slamming colleges for not protecting students, for not expelling accused students, and for not providing services for alleged victims.
The piece in The Hour, however, doesn't stray down this well-trodden path. Instead, it zooms out and looks at the plight of colleges and universities, trapped between angry advocates for sexual assault victims and the due process rights of the accused, and with their federal funding on the line. It mentions the rapidly evolving Title IX law, the difficulties that accused students have in clearing their name, and the near impossibility of ascertaining what happened between two students behind closed doors, especially when alcohol is involved. It even pays more than lip service to some of the most common statistics about campus sexual misconduct.
Hopefully a Sign of More Reasonable Reporting About Misconduct
The quality reporting in The Hour's article might not seem like a big deal, but when compared to most of the coverage that Title IX issues get – most of which is in college newspapers – it is actually quite remarkable.
Contrast The Hour's article with, for example, the feature hit-piece from The Daily Nebraskan back on April 15, 2019, “‘They're Just Trying to Keep Us Quiet': A Title IX Investigation.” In that piece, the reporters showed a clear lack of understanding about the process, the purpose, and the plight of anyone other than their anonymous sources.
A very reasonable response is that these writers are just college kids, learning the ropes of journalism. But their reporting carries great weight on college campuses. The article in The Daily Nebraskan triggered student demands against the university. And these campus newspapers are the ones behind most of the content about Title IX. Their circulation might not be wide, but by sheer volume of articles, they are driving the conversation about Title IX in stilted and biased ways. Seeing a report like the one in The Hour is refreshing for its centrist, knowledgeable, and thorough analysis of the problem.