Jim Davis over at GetReligion is looking at journalistic integrity, or the lack thereof, in a story that took place right up the road in Richmond:
Let’s talk about Clare, the homeschooled teenager in Richmond, Va., who was thrown out of a prom because of her dress. The facts are …
Well, actually, we don’t know many of the facts, whatever you may have read in “news” accounts. Nearly all of them are based purely on her blogging rant about the flap.
In one of the most shameful abuses of social media ever, story after story takes as gospel truth how the girl conformed to the dance dress code, yet was thrown out by horny dads and intolerant chaperones.
He goes on to chronicle the number of outlets that failed to investigate the facts and instead simply jumped on the Horny Dads meme:
“Virginia teen: I was booted from prom because male chaperones checked me out,” says one of the milder headlines in the New York Daily News.
“Teen Is Kicked Out Of A High School Prom Because The FATHERS Couldn’t Control Their Impure Thoughts!”, rages Perez Hilton.
“Teen Girl Ejected From Prom Because Horny Dads Can’t Stop Staring,” reports the aptly named Gawker.
“This Girl Was Kicked Out of Her Prom for Dancing Provocatively, Blames Creepy ‘Ogling’ Chaperone Dads,” says E! Online.
“‘Christian’ Homeschool Dads Get Girl Kicked Out Of Prom Because They Can’t Stop Lusting After Her,” sneers Crooks and Liars.
“Teen girl kicked out of prom because dads said her dress conjured ‘impure thoughts’,”echoes The Raw Story — which, despite its motto of “independent journalism,” pretty much pasted the story together from The Gawker, Crooks and Liars and Clare’s blog post.
None of those media attempted to get the other side. And who can blame them? After all, if you can’t trust a 17-year-old with a grudge to give an objective account …
Later in the piece, a link is provided to a post put up by a young woman who was also at the dance and who had a decidedly different take:
I happen to know the girl who was kicked out. She joined my volleyball team last fall, she ended up being in my American History class this semester, and she also happens to be graduating with me in just a few short weeks. In history, our class covered material from the Civil War to World War II. During the section on the Gilded Age, we learned about something called yellow journalism. Let me define it.
Yellow Journalism is the type of journalism that relies on sensationalism and lurid exaggeration to attract readers. There is a word in that definition that I would also like to define. Sensationalism is the use of sensational language to arouse an intense emotional response.
Everything that has been said about Clare and the Richmond Homeschool Prom has been yellow journalism and nothing short of sensationalizing. Her entire story is full of lies and slander. I have been to many homeschool proms and the Richmond Homeschool Prom is most definitely the least conservative one I have attended. The dress code for ladies merely required that dresses be fingertip length. I personally don’t recall seeing girls with dresses violating the requirements (which are the exact same as the local high schools). Clare even approached me and showed me that her dress adhered – yes, it was edgy and as close as she could get to breaking it, but yes it was fingertip length.
Honestly, if I had not been at prom and Clare’s description were all I had to go on, my interpretation would be that there were fathers lined up around the balcony just to observe and eye the girls. It makes it sound totally inappropriate and disgusting! But I was there, and the dads were not talking amongst themselves about the girls dancing and they were certainly not ogling. They were only doing the jobs they had selflessly volunteered for so that the homeschool community could enjoy prom. They were up there to work the lights and fix strand of lights that had gone out. Homeschool dads are incredibly protective over their daughters and go to great lengths to ensure they are treated well and typically very loving towards children that are not their own. Homeschool dads may be just about the least creepy men there are.
In the end, those of us who were not there, those of us were not witnesses to what took place, have to be most cautious in taking a side on this.
We should take into account what role ideology is playing in shaping the story and whether or not that ideology has a history of falsifying accounts to further an agenda.
That would be prudent I'd think.