When the media drop the ball - Joel Hall

I am always dumbfounded by how certain stories receive national media coverage and how some stories fall right through the cracks.

When all of the controversy surrounding the Jena Six came to light, I approached the national coverage it received with mixed feelings.

As a black man, I was happy that injustice in Jena, La., was brought to light, and that several under-age black children weren't sentenced as adults to attempted murder. I proudly wore my black suit and black tie with other African Americans during the nationwide "Black Out" to show support.

When Civil Rights leaders, churches, TV personalities, and political leaders first took to the airwaves on their behalf, I supported them. However, there was a tipping point where they got more coverage than they deserved.

After the shouts turned back into discussion, it set in more to me that, while these boys had been mistreated by the justice system, they had still stomped another human being unconscious. It was a crime like any other and, in retrospect, they were probably treated more like victims than they should have been.

However, in the last two months, the story of a true victim has barely gotten any media attention at all. The West Virginia media covered the story, and the Associated Press has followed it to a degree, but all together, few people know the story of Megan Williams.

In September, Williams -- a 20 year-old black woman from Logan County, West Virginia -- was kidnapped, beaten, raped multiple times, and tortured for nearly a week at the hands of six white people, three of whom are female.

When I first came across this story, by word of mouth, I really didn't think it was true. After reading the Charleston Gazette and researching some of the local media coverage, I was outraged.

I was immediately angered by the graphic nature of the crime. Over several days, the six assailants sexually assaulted Williams, forced her to eat rat and dog droppings, choked her with a cable cord, made her drink water from a toilet, stabbed her in the leg and cut her ankles while shouting racial epithets, poured hot water over her, and ripped out her hair from the scalp.

The woman would have likely died if it were not for an anonymous tip to the Logan County Sheriff's Department, which led police to the secluded cabin in which she was being victimized.

Having only found out about this more than two months after it had happened, I was angered more by the fact that hardly anybody is covering this.

During the day, as I report and write my stories, CNN and the local television stations are on all day in case any breaking news happens. I'm more informed than most people, but after talking to other informed people, they didn't know about it, either.

This story is just as sensational as other stories receiving nationwide attention. What this story has that others don't, however, is a woman who was visibly beaten, raped, and tortured, willing to share her name with the public when she didn't have to.

While Williams has reached out to the world to share her story, the majority of the American news media hasn't responded, and that's a crying shame.

Joel Hall covers government and politics for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached via e-mail at jhall@news-daily.com.