The New York Times' first account of the gang rape of a young girl in Texas was widely criticized, and rightly so. As the paper's own public editor put it:
The outrage is understandable. The story dealt with a hideous crime but addressed concerns about the ruined lives of the perpetrators without acknowledging the obvious: concern for the victim.
Today the Times tries again, this time with a female reporter sharing the byline.
What emerges from this second take is a much fuller picture of the assaults—which, unfortunately, only get worse as more details are added—as well as a look into the shattered life of the 11-year-old victim and the culture of a terrifying small town where, as one woman told the paper, “the devil is in full control.”
Good on the Times for hearing the criticism, going back, trying again, and doing better.
They should stay on this story, which remains full of threads that need even deeper examination, from the role that lack of available health care played in what happened (people have asked where the victim's parents were, and it turns out the answer may have been in part: incredibly ill) to the alarmingly large number of men who have been charged in connection with the gang rapes ("nineteen boys and men, ages 14 to 27," says the Times).
"The arrests have raised fundamental questions about how a girl might have been repeatedly abused by many men and boys in a tightly knit community without any adult intervening, or even seeming to register that something was amiss," the paper says.
Those are fundamental questions worth answering, in print.