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Lessons from the Ebony 4 Debacle: The End of Plausible Deniability for "Journalists" Who Cover Genarlow Wilson

It took five years, countless posts, and constant vigilance from What About Our Daughters readers, but finally a miracle happened, someone from a "mainstream" publication wrote about Genarlow Wilson and asked "What About the Victims?"  

A writer for the Poynter Institute, a school that "exists to ensure that our communities have access to excellent journalism" wrote an analysis of Ebony.com's Genarlow Wilson Notorious to Glorious Debacle. The Ebony 4 (Kierna Mayo, Genese Cage, Jamilah-Asali I. Lemieux, and Geneva S. Thomas)  will live on in history for their EPIC failure to fact-check, but they will go down as the iceberg which finally sank the Myth of Genarlow Wilson. Did you hear that? That's the sound of a hole being torn into the Genarlow Wilson Ship of LIES!

Poynter just published What Ebony story can teach journalists about covering sexual assault. The author did something that in an ordinary world would be routine, but for the Black Elite Establishment unthinkable- she asked a victim's rights expert to comment on the Genarlow Wilson case and the media coverage. Tracie Powell spoke with Wendy Murphy, a leading victim's rights advocate who runs the Judicial Language Project. You have to go read the entire thing, but here is the damning portion:

In both the long-form story and the Ebony update, Thomas Whitfield states that a 15-year-old victim willingly “performed oral sex” on Wilson and several other males at a New Year’s Eve party. Besides the fact that legally, in Georgia, a 15-year-old cannot consent to oral or any other kind of sex, the term, “performed oral sex” not only eroticizes a crime but it also eliminates the subject of the story, in this case Wilson, from the report, Murphy said.

“When you write about her being a receiver of past harm and he, as the subject, isn’t even in the sentence, it’s almost like he takes no role, no responsibility morally, legally or otherwise because he’s just not present in that style of writing,” she added. “That’s completely separate from what I saw to be the overarching concern of Ebony referring to him as glorious.”

“Let’s assume for the sake of argument that this was the only bad thing [Wilson’s] ever done in his life and he’s behaved perfectly ever sense. It’s still a part of who he is and part of his story because he was prosecuted in a public forum for committing a serious public offense,” Murphy continued. “And, is it ever appropriate to call a guy with that kind of background glorious? Reasonable people think he’s a nice guy but you’re telling a story about him because of where he’s been and what he’s done If you call him glorious, maybe you’re not celebrating him for what he’s done but you’re clearly not condemning it. Poynter.org



Genarlow Wilson and his supporters, with the assistance of "journalists," LITERALLY wiped out the existence of a 17 year old girl who made the very serious allegation that Mr. Wilson and his friends gang raped her. To this day, people tell me they didn't know there was a second girl involved in this case until reading about it here.  They didn't know because she has and will continue to be erased by Mr. Wilson's supporters and journalists.


Mr Wilson's supporters and journalists crafted a fiction that Mr. Wilson had "consensual" sex with his 15 year old girlfriend. They left out the part where he passed the girl around to his buddies or the fact that this romantic Romeo and Juliet moment took place in a drug-fueled, booze fueled orgy where Mr. Wilson and his buddies also made a sex tape. OH yeah, and doing all that was a FELONY in Georgia punishable by a decade in jail. 


Nope, Mr. Wilson's supporters TRAMPLED over these two girls and past and future victims of sexual violence and declared his actions, NO. BIG. DEAL. I've repeatedly seen fully grown people describe an alleged gang rape as "normal teenage activity." And they are still doing it, and I'm still horrified by it. Nothing, however, could have prepared me for what the Editors of Ebony.com did two weeks ago today when they used the platform at Ebony.com to declare that statutory rape  laws should not be applied to Black girls and reaffirmed their support for Genarlow Wilson as an GLORIOUS, heroic, figure. 


Even if you believe that his sentence was excessive or the laws of Georgia were archaic, he did commit a SERIOUS CRIMINAL OFFENSE, one which remains a crime and punishable with up to a year in prison.


Mere contact with the criminal justice system does not automatically confer nobility-nor is every Black criminal that gets caught a political prisoner. Incarceration does not equal purification and does not require glorification. 


Is it my intention to blog about Mr. Wilson for the rest of his days? NOPE. But each and every time a journalist writes a biased story that leaves out context and tries to paint him a a little lost lamb, I do hope that my readers will rise up to complete the record. Each time Mr. Wilson's supporters, including The Ebony 4, spout dangerous and predatory views towards rape and child molestation of Black women and girls, I hope you will rise up to condemn them and then COMBAT them. Each and every time Mr. Wilson tries to duck and dodge the severity of his actions by using euphemisms and double-speak and attempts to avoid accountability, I hope some  real journalist nails him down. And that's not just for me, that's for HIM. It is CLEAR that he harbors remaining guilt over what he did, if he didn't his interviews wouldn't sound as ridiculous as they do. He keeps running from the fact that he is/was a predator. I believe in redemption, but redemption will never be based on a lie.


Tell the truth Genarlow - it will set you free!



Reader Comments (17)

Still waiting for him to say: I realize that what I did to that young lady was morally wrong. It was also against the law. I would like to offer her my deepest and most heartfelt apology. Ignorance of the law is never an excuse. Group sex and/or gang rape is never acceptable.

Maybe he wants to leave out the 17-year old because he doesn't want to accept any criminal liability.

Until he can say that - why is he talking to any young peope?

July 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDonnadara

Gina I think you are being generous by calling some of these writers journalists. I think they should be essayists b/c they simply give their opinion and take on the facts. Many of these African American writers on these websites are giving their opinion there is hardly any investigating or interviews. The line between personal blogs and news/magazine blogs is very thin.

Even defendants who were found not guilty don't go on these media rounds as long as Genarlow, he needs to give up on this political prisoner press tour he is on There are innocent people who have been released from jail that can do be a spokesman.

Is this what his mentors told him to do? And why didn't his mentors make sure he was seeing his academic advisor every semester but can make sure he gets on Ebony magazine's website at the end of the school year?

July 25, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterblkchik

@Donnadara, these crimes occurred quite a while ago. Presumably the statute of limitations has expired. I too would like to hear an apology to the victims. A REAL apology. Not that, "I'm sorry it happened," bullshit. I make my son state what he did wrong, his sincere regret that he hurt and or offended someone. And a statement that it won't happen again. If I can require that frim an eight year old you'd think that's the least a "woman's" publication would require from a grown azz man before declaring him "glorious."

July 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRoslynholcomb

"Gina I think you are being generous by calling some of these writers journalists. I think they should be essayists b/c they simply give their opinion and take on the facts. Many of these African American writers on these websites are giving their opinion there is hardly any investigating or interviews. The line between personal blogs and news/magazine blogs is very thin."

Blkchik, you're one of the first people I've seen to point out the problem here, and you nailed it.

Reading the bios of the Ebony 4, three of them have little-to-no actual experience as journalists. They come from the blog world and are listed as "contributors" to various websites (like Clutch... which is a whole other problem), but even if you read their past writing for these other sites, it is all opinion. I have not seen reported, sourced and researched articles from this bunch at all, and nothing to lead me to believe that they would be capable of handling a venerable magazine brand like Ebony. Regardless of what one thinks of Ebony's influence in the past two decades or so, the history of Ebony is a grand one. If you read older issues, you'll see how much great JOURNALISM appeared in the magazine... investigative pieces completed by accomplished black reporters with years of experience under their belts covering urban issues, politics, sociology, crime, poverty, intrapersonal relationships, etc.

There are many positives that come from blogs (like this one), but plenty of negatives as well. And when you start hiring bloggers (who in this case, had blogs that showed little evidence of introspection or critical thinking skills) to manage websites that aim to engage in serious journalism and get advertising dollars from it, you run into the clusterf... that just happened with Genarlow Wilson. Also, they clearly did not understand that the snarky, sarcastic, rude "mean girl" behavior that was acceptable on their blogs was completely out of line in their positions with Ebony. If they were actual journalists, they would not have responded with dismissive statements such as "“At EBONY.com, in particular, we are largely a female editorial team and take pride in our consistently progressive stance on women’s issues. To suggest otherwise, simply means that you are not familiar with this website.”

(Knowing the behavior of one of the Ebony 4 and her long history of engaging in Twitter wars with other bloggers -- also very unprofessional behavior -- I have a pretty good hunch as to which one crafted that statement.)

And again, real journalists don't gloss over factual information about criminal cases by saying "they don't believe" someone is “either a rapist or child molester.” Your beliefs are irrelevant here. Genarlow Wilson was convicted in a court of law. That's a fact, even if one thinks the conviction wasn't fair, or whatever.

It's extremely disheartening to see the state of African-American journalism today and to see people like the Ebony 4, who have little to no actual journalism experience, be placed in the same category as the trailblazing reporters years ago who made significant change. Having your little blog in which you opine about your latest bad date and going to the club and the latest "female" who you don't like doesn't take much skill... I hope those in charge of the Ebony brand do a better job of vetting the people they hire in the future and choose people with actual journalistic and reporting skills.

July 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLisa99

Well said Lisa99. I have often wondered where journalism has gone. I have a favorite local news team that I watch in the morning because they are funny and personable, but the main anchor has gone on maternity leave. Since then on any national news story, they have said a bunch of non-fact-based nonsense and it's hard for me to believe that any of them went to journalism school or even reads a newspaper or knows how to use google or basic critical thinking skills. Do most peple just want to be entertained these days, facts be damned?

July 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDonnadara

The Poynter article was good, but blkchik and Lisa99 have aptly summarized the real problem exposed by that infamous love letter to Genarlow Wilson . The editorial decisions at Ebony are being made by bloggers who are masquerading as journalists. Period. Anyone with any semblance of journalistic experience or integrity would have never allowed that Ebony article to see the light of day.

July 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLydia

I agree with all of the comments posted.

What is also disheartening, is the need to try to defend the indefensible. Madem Noire had an article recently where they opine about WAOD referring to the journalists as the Ebony 4, a term they feel is only used in reference to criminals. It was their opinion that that type of language was slanderous and different language should be used for a group of women uplifting a gang rapist. The article didn't come out strong enough on the issue of writing articles in defense of convicted criminals....but they are offended by the use of The Ebony 4. Go figure. The comments section was even worse.

I really do worry about young black girls growing up in this environment where black media and even other black women defend the criminal behavior of men at their expense.

July 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSeriouslyReally?

Yeah I laughed at that Madam Noire story. She's just protecting her own rear. She wants a job in the incestuous Black media career carousel. She want's "civility" only after we've been effective. Her issue isn't a lack of civility, but the presence of competence. I don't listen to the counsel of people who sit on the sidelines and wait until the fight is over to offer up their two cents.

July 25, 2012 | Registered CommenterThe Blogmother

I think MN is just after page clicks. This story got a lot of attention TWO WEEKS AGO, and they're still trying to bite off that. Pitiful.

July 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRoslynholcomb

Sigh.... I don't even know where to begin. For all of this steppin' and fetchin' that "dude" is doing - (he doesn't warrant me calling him by name) - he needs to be locked up again. I am SO OVER HIM! "Dude" - (which doesn't deserve me typing out even his initials) - needs to SIT DOWN! Go get a real job. I, my husband and nameless other professional well to do African Americans have overcome troublesome pasts and have risen to the occasion. We've decided (within ourselves) to be more than we were. We've allowed simple determination and common sense along with a little experience with a college degree or two to wipe out the trash of the past.
My main concern is for the victims that didn't file a report. The ones where an article was never published on their behalf.


Please do understand - oh Ye other readers - that my opinion is not reserved for all criminals - I treat all items case by case along with the facts of such. This person has not proven that there is any remorse for the victims but more so for himself and his oh so hurt feelings for something that he COMPLETELY DID TO HIMSELF.

If a tape comes out and it shows someone holding a gun to his head when all of this was going down - I'll start to think differently about "him" - maybe. But until then - just decide to do better within yourself – “dude”, at home, where you sleep and by what you do every day. Let change happen within, & above all be blessed!

July 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMizzleRNizzle

Regarding the MN article, considering the frequency with which they publish articles filled with misspelled words, I didn't expect much from them. They met my expectations.

July 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLydia

Blog Mother, you are simply to be commended; you have done, you do more in defense of our sisters than most if not all of these organizations combined. None of them have taken on R. Kelly, Genarlow Wilson, Mike Tyson, etc., the way you have. That's says alot about you, but sadly, it also says alot about our many organizations, that mainly, they don't do all that they have the resources to do. Bless you! :)

July 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterrevmamaafrika

Great post.

I agree with all of the above comments, especially the ones that mentioned the terrible state of "Black journalism" (if that's what one wants to call it) - bad grammar/spelling (yes, I notice all of it), biases & cyber-beefs, oh my. And Madame Noire & Clutch? Jokes.

Kudos to this blog for doing what others refuse to do - standing up for girls & women of color instead of throwing them under the bus.

July 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSpinster

I agree with your whole post Spinster!

I honestly wouldn't have a problem if sites like Clutch and Madame Noire (and their writers) simply presented themselves as entertainment blogs. The problem is that these folks who write and "edit" for such sites actually think they're doing journalism and present themselves as journalists -- or present their sites as magazines and news sources.

(And too many readers seem to think this is "black journalism.")

I'm not holding my breath waiting for those writers to report a real news story on their own instead of writing an opinion post based on reported news from real journalists working for other publications. It doesn't take much skill or talent to do what MN and Clutch are doing... and that's why we ended up with the trainwreck that just happened at Ebony.

July 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLisa99

Lisa99 - exactly.

July 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSpinster

I've been reading WAOD for a while now and I've never commented, but I feel like I must today because this particular post gives me a lot of hope. As a beginning journalist and writer, I have often been confused about where to start and what I should be doing to survive in the world of "new media" and "new journalism". Like many who have commented before me, I have noticed that many websites in general, but especially those that cater to the black community, tend to sell opinion as journalism, or they simply recycle articles from other outlets without adding any new information; maybe at times there will be a new headline that totally takes the actual article out of context. I often find myself wondering if that's all there is to journalism these days, and as a student of journalism, that's pretty disheartening.
Although I do enjoy reading and writing opinion pieces, they will never take the place of investigative journalism that is the result of asking hard questions and extensive research. This post gives me hope that there is still a place for that type of writing and that my training was not in vain. Reading this has encouraged me to use what I have to do what is right and what is necessary, and that won't always be what is popular or "marketable". Thank you for this, for giving me clarity, and for confirming for me what I was beginning to doubt.

July 30, 2012 | Unregistered Commenternicholeonichols

Nicholeonichols, it is so great to "meet" young women like yourself! I'm not that much older than you, but I'm a journalist and I know that even in this world of new media and the like, consumers can separate quality journalism from simply "writing."

Opinion pieces are also fine, don't get me wrong. Great opinion writers, however, often research their subjects well and interview experts to give their opinion more credence and depth. There are many wonderful black opinion writers and columnists who I truly respect and admire.

Keep studying and learning new media techniques and understand the power of a well-crafted blog (like Gina's), but always stay true to the basic tenets of reporting, studying, researching and interviewing that are the basis of quality journalism. In the end, you will have a much longer career and do more good than the wannabes of the world who only know how to recycle other stories, throw in an uninformed opinion and then call it "journalism."

July 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLisa99

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