Making Dana Parsons the Times Orange County Columnist

Years ago, when this guy came to speak to my high school journalism class (“Go Griffins!”), it made perfect sense that the county's second most important newspaper had given him a prominent voice on its local pages. Like most of OC, Parsons seemed decent enough—pleasant and affable. Contrary to my prior conception of professional journalists, he was not reeking of liquor. Soon after, he caught the Weekly's attention with his courageous investigative reportage of the case of Arthur Carmona, a 16-year-old kid wrongly convicted of armed robbery in Irvine who spent two years behind bars due to gross negligence on the part of the police and the District Attorney. Thanks in large part to Parsons,?Carmona was eventually released from prison and justice was belatedly—and as is frequently the case around here when law enforcement pulls a boner—involuntarily served. The Weekly was so impressed that his column was awarded spot No. 980 on its list of the OC's 1,000 Guilty Pleasures in 1999, noting that in the course of Parsons' investigation, his column ” . . . departed from the standard operating procedure at county dailies and began comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.” But what happened? Fast-forward a few years to his coverage of the Haidl Gang Rape trial, during which Parsons' journalism was lazy, frequently contradictory and, in the end, shamefully short-sighted. Throughout his reporting, Parsons found a way to place the bulk of the blame nearly everywhere except for where it belonged, on defendants Greg Haidl, Kyle Nachreiner and Keith Spann—at one point diminishing the severity of the rape by writing that ” . . . the victim's promiscuous behavior play[ed] into the overall context,” and claiming the foreign objects with which the unconscious Jane Doe was violated “…amount[ed] to kinky dildos.” Yes, and the torture at Abu Ghraib and Gitmo was nothing more than fraternity-style hazing. And what was Parsons' conclusion after the verdict was handed down and all was said and done? “To girls who think it's cool or necessary to engage in promiscuous sex, think of Jane Doe.” As our own Steve Lowery wrote at the time, ” . . . did [Parsons] miss the memo circulating the past 30 years that clearly states rape is not a crime of sex but one of power and abuse?” Blaming the victim for rape is an old and shameful tactic and Parsons, a man we had once held in fair regard, should have known better. Is this really a voice that the Times believes speaks to the common streets of the OC? You broke our heart, Dana. You broke our heart.

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