The tragedy of the Jaycee Dugard case has (rightly) resulted in quite a bit of media attention and interest. At this early stage, reliable facts are just starting to emerge – despite the volume of coverage and conversation. The paucity of new information, however, hasn’t stopped more than a few media outlets from asking a whole host of questions that I suspect no one knows the answer to, such as
Why would someone do this?
I don’t think that the media poses these questions out of malice, or ill intent. I think that journalists are trying to respond to the intense public interest (and outrage) that a crime like this one could happen in one of our California communities. I also think that some of the relentlessness of the coverage is also the product of the 24-hour news cycle that demands new information on a constant basis.
More than a few of these calls have come to CALCASA over the last two weeks, and while we don’t comment on the particulars of any active case we did feel that there was an opportunity to talk about some of the larger issues and dilemmas that a tragedy of this scope presents. After a few of these interviews one question from a radio journalist stood out in my mind as being the best, and most important, question that I responded to last week. As we were wrapping up the interview he asked me
Am I asking the right questions?
I can honestly say that this question caused me to pause and consider. Was he, and by extension the media, asking the questions that I thought were the most important? Was there a better or more clear way to contextualize this crime within the context of what we know about sexual assault broadly? Did this interview frame this incident in a manner that would usefully increase public understanding? Were we, as victim advocates, making the points we wanted to make? His question created an opportunity for me to add some information and perspective that changed the direction of his line of questions, and gave him some additional things to consider as he follows this story.
Media advocacy 101 tells you to think about your framing questions and talking points before any interview – and that’s great advice. It was also refreshing to have a journalist ask before I could prompt..