Adam Silverman Profile picture
Jul 7, 2018 43 tweets 40 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
Yesterday the @TimesArgus published a story about the senseless murder of Courtney Gaboriault at the hands of her abusive ex-boyfriend. This fundamentally flawed article demands a formal response. #btv #vt #vtpoli…
Despite the headline, the @timesargus spends considerable space glorifying a domestic abuser and murderer, and dismissing his victim as an afterthought. And let’s be clear: He is no victim. #btv #vt #vtpoli
The first mention in the story of a human being is of the killer, in the lede, referring to him in positive terms. #btv #vt #vtpoli
The killer receives seven — SEVEN — laudatory mentions before the victim is even named. #btv #vt #vtpoli
And then we finally get to Courtney, the victim. As a passing mention. As an extension of the killer: “his former girlfriend.” No positive adjectives. No list of accomplishments. No reference to loved ones, friends, colleagues. Not even a description of her job. #btv #vt #vtpoli
It’s not until the ninth paragraph that we learn *anything* more about Courtney than her name. It’s not until the 11th that we see a single positive descriptor — and even then, we get only one. In a quote. From a press release. #btv #vt #vtpoli
Next we get a few more press-release quotes — strong condemnation of domestic violence from #VT Public Safety Commissioner Thomas D. Anderson — before turning immediately back to praise of and mourning for ... the killer. #btv #vtpoli
From a school principal, quoted expressing grief only for the killer and his family. #btv #vt #vtpoli
From a school board chairman, quoted speaking sympathetically for the killer’s family and sharing details about what a good guy the murderer was. #btv #vt #vtpoli
We learn about when and where the killer met his eventual victim and even the college degrees he earned before we learn the relationship was tumultuous, and that Courtney had ended it. By now we’re in the 22nd paragraph. #btv #vt #vtpoli
The article finally ends with four paragraphs about the issue of domestic violence. We never even get a second positive adjective to describe Courtney. In 26 paragraphs. Just. One. Adjective. #btv #vt #vtpoli
This @TimesArgus story represents a failure on multiple levels: of reporting, of writing and, perhaps especially, of editing. #btv #vt #vtpoli
The reporter made no effort to speak to anyone at the Department of Public Safety about Courtney. We were available for interviews. The commissioner spoke to three reporters in person Thursday. #btv #vt #vtpoli
The story structure and writing weaponize language, whether unintentionally and carelessly or for some other reason, to elevate a murderer and diminish a victim. #btv #vt #vtpoli
But that’s why we have editors. That any editor could read this story and allow it into print is shocking and disappointing. #btv #vt #vtpoli
I was a newspaper reporter and editor in #VT for 18 years. As a young reporter on the crime beat, I hope I knew enough not to write a story this problematic. But I know I had editors who would have stopped something as inappropriate as this from running. #btv #vtpoli
And given me an education about why. #btv #vt #vtpoli
When I was an editor, if a reporter had filed a story like this, I would have spiked it, had a serious conversation with the reporter, and questioned whether my institution was providing enough education and training for staff on covering domestic violence. #btv #vt #vtpoli
To be sure, loved ones of the deceased killer are grieving & struggling to understand what happened. And it may be possible the @TimesArgus was trying to show that domestic violence can happen to anyone, arise from anywhere. #btv #vt #vtpoli
But this article is such a massive failure of journalism that it conveys neither of those elements in the appropriate context — that of a brutal slaying carried out by an abuser who sought to control & dominate his victim. #btv #vt #vtpoli
The @TimesArgus must examine the breakdown in internal systems that allowed this story to be published. #btv #vt #vtpoli
In addition, the @TimesArgus must invest in training on covering domestic violence. For instance, TA staff could approach agencies such as @stepsVT and @Circlevt to help understand what went wrong and prevent anything this egregious ever happening again. #btv #vt #vtpoli
I implore the @TimesArgus to listen to feedback from its own readers who are rightly appalled and are making it known in comments on Facebook and the TA’s website. #btv #vt #vtpoli
For now, the @TimesArgus owes its readers, the public and Courtney’s family, friends and coworkers an apology and an explanation. #btv #vt #vtpoli
I expect to hear just that from the @TimesArgus without delay. #btv #vt #vtpoli
As I think more about this and read the many thoughtful responses from you all, a few more things occur to me. #btv #vt #vtpoli
First, the @TimesArgus and reporter David Delcore appear to have gone out of their way to avoid humanizing Courtney. Given their reliance on the DPS press release for quotes, they intentionally ignored or somehow missed everything on this page. #btv #vt #vtpoli
Second, there is one phrase in particular in the story that has jumped out to people as especially problematic: “he did not take it well.” This is the essence of victim-blaming: She broke up with him. She’s the bad actor. That’s what it’s saying. #btv #vt #vtpoli
Third, I am heartened by all the responses to this thread. Together we can amplify one another’s voices. Let’s make sure the @TimesArgus hears us. #btv #vt #vtpoli
Today the @TimesArgus responds: an apology and a promise to re-evaluate how it covers domestic violence — preceded by a lengthy explanation. I need to digest the column before responding further. I’m eager to hear what you all think. #btv #vt #vtpoli…
I’ve been thinking a lot about the @TimesArgus’ response to widespread criticism of coverage of Courtney Gaboriault’s murder, especially the second-day story that I dissected in this thread. I’d like to share my reaction. #btv #vt #vtpoli
First, the @TimesArgus deserves credit for the publisher’s column. It’s not often that you demand an apology and an explanation and actually get them. And yet ... #btv #vt #vtpoli
The column suggests the article was flawed, but that the reporting and editing were not. That’s a paradox. If the article is flawed — which objectively it is — then the reporting and editing also were flawed. #btv #vt #vtpoli
The column indicates the reporter was unable to learn anything more about Courtney — and yet it appears he ignored an entire page of the DPS’s news release that offered the very information the TA claims he was seeking unsuccessfully. #btv #vt #vtpoli
Also, the reporter never called to request an interview with anyone at DPS. As I noted before, multiple media outlets sought comment from Commissioner Anderson on Thursday, and others did so later. The @TimesArgus was not among them. #btv #vt #vtpoli
The column notes that the intent of spending so much space describing the murderer was “to show that a person who is perceived in one way can be capable of the very worst.” #btv #vt #vtpoli
But the story that appeared was not *that* story. The piece never made that point, which would have required additional sources and a different approach to writing. I’d like to read that story, but I haven’t seen it yet. #btv #vt #vtpoli
Troublingly, the column takes a particularly defensive tone regarding criticism that the article blamed Courtney for her own murder. Numerous people who have commented about the @TimesArgus column have noted this. #btv #vt #vtpoli
The final paragraphs of the @TimesArgus response are the strongest, and I commend the organization for apologizing and especially for making a commitment to do better. #btv #vt #vtpoli
I expect the @TimesArgus to be public and transparent about the steps they take going forward. The column should be the *first* thing we hear about this ongoing process, not the last. #btv #vt #vtpoli
If the @TimesArgus really wants to respond to this in the right way, I implore the newspaper to go further. #btv #vt #vtpoli
This evening, in an article published by @vtdigger, two of the top officials at the @TimesArgus criticized me for taking the newspaper to task for their failed coverage of the murder of Courtney Gaboriault. #btv #vt #vtpoli
These officials take a myopic, outdated view of the role of a PIO. Their comments — especially Steve Pappas’ “cheap shot” remark —suggest these editors have learned nothing over the past three days, and that Rob Mitchell’s “apology” was disengneous at best. #btv #vt #vtpoli

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