When a University of Missouri basketball player was recently accused of rape, the local online discourse was predictably heated -- and much of it was uneducated, insulting and threatening. To counter this, the Columbia Missourian worked to educate the community about rape and rape culture. This can serve as an example for how other community news outlets might promote civil discourse in response to local crises.
The Missourian staff used Storify to capture this process, so that others might emulate it: LET'S TALK: Rape, rape culture and the bigger dialogue
Key elements included:
- Publishing a community voices article by a relevant local advocacy group (the MU Feminist Student Union) explaining rape culture and putting it in a local and larger context.
- Directing community members to relevant information on other sites, such as Myths and Realities of Sexual Assault, Upsetting the Culture of Rape and No More Victim Blaming.
- Offering relevant research and statistics
- Highlighting relevant stories from the archives, such as this one from 2008: A Question of Consent, noting the lack of sexual assault prosecutions at MU.
- Exploring the nuances of the issue, such as past examples of false rape accusations.
- Highlighting the work of other local new outlets.
- Promoting resources (such as the local police department and local or online support organizations) to take action and get help.
- Encouraging discussion on its Facebook page.
The Missourian is a community news organization directed by professional editors and staffed by Missouri School of Journalism students.