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PR: New York Times Engages in Bias, Secret Alterations in Coverage of Campus Sex Assault Issue, SAVE Charges

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Contact: Teri Stoddard
Telephone: 301-801-0608

New York Times Engages in Bias, Secret Alterations in Coverage of Campus Sex Assault Issue, SAVE Charges

WASHINGTON / March 25, 2013 – The New York Times has repeatedly published biased and inaccurate articles regarding allegations of sexual assault on campus, according to Stop Abusive and Violent Environments. This past week the NYT secretly altered an inaccurate statement by one of its reporters. SAVE is calling for acknowledgement of the change and a public commitment to balanced coverage in future articles on the issue.

The NYT published an article on March 19 by reporter Richard Perez-Pena titled, “College Groups Connect to Fight Sexual Assault” (1). Regarding the Department of Education’s controversial sexual assault policy, the article claimed the federal mandate “did not markedly change interpretation of the law.”

But the 2011 sex mandate did substantially alter the prior DED stance, many say. The new policy lowered the standard of proof to the weakest preponderance-of-evidence standard, discouraged cross-examinations by the accused, subjected the accused to “double-jeopardy” appeals, and generally removed the presumption of innocence. These changes have been discussed and documented in over 100 editorials (2) and legal analyses (3).

So within hours of publication the Times, without acknowledgement or expression of regret, covertly changed the wording of this key conclusion to read, “The letter changed interpretation of parts of the law.” The wording and time of the change was captured by NewsDiffs, which monitors alterations to news articles (4).

Two days later, columnist KC Johnson disclosed the ruse, noting the change rendered the revised sentence “all but senseless.” Johnson’s column also questioned why reporter Perez-Pena failed to include a response from a defense attorney or civil libertarian to assure editorial balance. Johnson documented examples of significant editorial bias in other articles by the same reporter (5).

“In light of these disturbing revelations, it’s hard to imagine how Richard Perez-Pena will be able to restore his journalistic credibility,” notes SAVE spokesman Howard Goldman. “These revelations also raise questions about the New York Times’ commitment to editorial fairness in its coverage of the campus sexual assault issue.”

The American Association of University Professors and 12 other organizations have called on the Department of Education to rescind its controversial sexual assault policy (6).

Stop Abusive and Violent Environments is a victim-advocacy organization working for evidence-based solutions to domestic violence and sexual assault: