The Rewrite Desk: Texas Child Gang Rape Story Edition

In his dreary magazine column last weekend, NYT editor Bill Keller noted that he'd ordered up a new story to follow the paper's March 8 "ham-handed article that led some readers to think we were blaming the 11-year-old victim of a monstrous gang rape in Texas." The new story is out today. Let's compare.

The original story described a single incident of gang rape. It generated outrage due to its seemingly sympathetic tilt towards the perpetrators, perhaps best crystallized by this passage:

Residents in the neighborhood where the abandoned trailer stands - known as the Quarters - said the victim had been visiting various friends there for months. They said she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s. She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground, some said.

"Where was her mother? What was her mother thinking?" said Ms. Harrison, one of a handful of neighbors who would speak on the record. "How can you have an 11-year-old child missing down in the Quarters?"

The new story is much grimmer, if such a thing is possible. It says the girl was raped "on at least six occasions," by at least 19 men, over a period of nearly three months. The girl's parents say they waited three days after learning of the rapes to report it to the police. Its recounting of the incidents is chilling. For example:

During the sexual assault, the girl said, she heard Mr. McGowen call someone on the phone and invite him to the house to have sex with her, the affidavits said. Four more men whom she did not know arrived.

The new story is, in short, an unceasing tale of poverty, abuse, deprivation, ignorance, sickness, and trauma. But it's a marked improvement on the first story. So, good job, NYT. You've ruined our day.

[Photo via]