Sexual Assault on Airplanes

Karen Schwartz does a great job reporting in her New York Times article “Recent Incidents Put a New Focus on Sexual Assault on Airplanes.”

I chose this article because of its unique approach to covering sexual assault. Though sexual assault has been an increasingly covered topic by the media, stories frequently feature incidents on college campuses. Schwartz’s story helps make it more visible that men and women at any age can be victims and that sexual assault is not only a problem for women on college campuses.

In terms of her reporting, I like how Schwartz brought up issues regarding lack of training and protocol with which to approach allegations of sexual assault on airplanes. She also did a good job including data and giving explanation as to why some data is lacking. The article talks mostly about how increasingly cramped planes put passengers at risk of assault on an airplane. It would have been interesting if the article had touched on how flight attendants have been affected as well.

Do you think there is any thing lacking in this article’s approach to sexual assault? Do you think the headline does a good job conveying the article’s importance? Do you have any  thoughts about this article being placed in the travel section?

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10 Responses to “Sexual Assault on Airplanes”

  1. This article was interesting because it brought up sexual assault in a place you don’t normally think of, so it brought something new to the conversation. The fact that this is related to Trump makes the article timely, and it does bring in more characters than just Trump. I like how the article was fair and included male and female perpetrators.
    I believe that by having this article in the travel section, not including Trump in the headline (even though it implies it), and including other narratives, the article becomes less political and more of an issue for travelers to be aware of and pay attention to.
    I think the article brings up interesting solutions to preventing and monitoring sexual assault on airplanes in regards to airplane staff, but I wish it would of went more into detail about why there are so many undocumented cases of sexual assault and why people aren’t reporting it to begin with. I think this would’ve drawn more attention to broader issues involving sexual harassment and assault.

  2. I found this article to be a very compelling read. Overall, it did a good job exposing an original angle of sexual assault. I think its placement in the travel section is going to draw a lot of attention to it. Most travelers are bound to be taking airplanes, which makes this article directly relatable to them. I think that the readers of the the travel section make a great target audience for this article because it gives an opportunity for a group that may not be concerned about sexual assault to feel as if the topic could impact their life and therefore start caring about the issue.

    I think the writing is really strong because of the personal stories from victims and flight attendants that are used. I was little lost about WHY it has been claimed that sexual assault on airplanes has increased so dramatically. A lot of the data about the general increase was not concrete, so the article lost me a bit towards the middle when it was clear that none of the findings were supported very well.

    Finally, I think the title could have been stronger. Sexual Assault on Airplanes should have been within the first couple words of the title. I think the title undersells the content.

  3. I agree that the New York Times article, “Recent Incidents Put a New Focus on Sexual Assault on Airplanes” considers a very unique angle pertaining to sexual assault. This originality, combined with a very captivating lede, works to get the reader hooked immediately. Additionally, taking a look at the angle of sexual assault on airplanes opens up a broader discussion of lesser thought of places where sexual assault occurs. This leads the reader to expand their understanding and consider the ubiquity of these attacks, which leaves a lasting imprint past the point of finishing the article.

    While this article is not the usual story that readers of the travel section will happen upon, I think it makes sense to place it here. This topic is something important that everyone, but specifically frequent travelers in this case, should be aware of. By placing a story related to sexual assault in this section, it will grab readers attention since they are not expecting a story like this. This will create more awareness of the issue. Additionally, I don’t think the title detracts from the importance of the content. I think it is straightforward and highlights both the importance of the issue as well as the fact that it is becoming a growing problem.

  4. I found this article to be successful for many reasons. To start, it was on a topic fascinating to read about simply because it’s a new subject. I hadn’t heard anything about sexual assault on planes until now. Additionally, the article relates to the more current issue of the election and Jessica Leeds’ relevance as someone who is using her voice to stop Trump after an assault.

    Placing this article in the travel section feels incorrect. This issue is not about traveling. It’s about sexual assault and the preventative measures we can take. While putting it in the travel section maybe still be useful to travelers, the issue of sexual assault is something that spans far and wide within our country and should be somewhere more appropriately labeled, like health or well being.

    Finally, this article feels as though it could be significantly expanded upon. There is still so much to explore. The attendants viewpoint, the victims (if allowed), and the flight attendant’s defenses feel like something that should be explored in the article.

  5. Because the journalist chose a very narrow angle of looking at sexual assault, the article presented a very unique issue that is not typically thought about. The most effective part of this piece was the definitely the lede/nut graph. Karen Schwartz was able to find the sense of urgency associated with this issue by connecting it with Donald Trump and the election. Trump’s recent sexual assault accusations have been criticized by the media, which allowed readers to connect this article with a current event. Schwartz was able to answer the “why now?” question from the readers, making this piece successful.

    Another successful part of this article was the use of quotes. One of the first quotes included is from the man that sexually assaulted a woman on the plane and thought it was consensual, since she didn’t response. His ignorance and failure to recognize the severity of his actions are so apparent in that quote and could not have been captured by just paraphrasing.

  6. First of all, I want to say that this article really resonated with me because I work as a med-flight pilot and I have a lot of friends in the aviation industry—I feel like this is an issue that nobody really talks about, or maybe even thinks about, until it happens to them. This article is a really big deal because it’s bringing to light an issue which has largely been covered up—It should not be in the travel section. The title and categorization of this article do not do the subject justice. I think that had this article focused on one specific incident, it would have been seen as breaking news and received more attention. Still, I think that the New York Times needs to reconsider how it’s almost belittling sexual assault. I’m unsure how other similar articles are framed, but I would be curious to find out. The title is lacking in a sense of urgency, and maybe the author was aware that the article wouldn’t be received in a way which demanded urgency, but it could certainly be improved. I think just by calling these sexual assault “incidents” really frames the entire article. Sure the author is doing a public service by bringing this issue to a national spotlight, but I don’t think the topic is getting the attention it needs.

    • Lauren — How interesting that you’re a med-flight pilot. Wow! How long have you been doing that? How often do you fly? It seems like this issue resonates very strongly with you. You make very good points. Perhaps you should consider writing a news story about this topic some time. Your perspective as a young female pilot would add a lot. That story would attract an audience.

  7. I think Schwartz did an amazing job with this piece. She manages to bring light to a topic that is never discussed in the context of transportation and she does so in a very eye-opening way. The use of quotes in the nut graph and a lede that really sucks the reader in and immerses them in the story Schwartz is telling. Furthermore Schwartz really connects the piece to the present by using recent trials for sexual assault on airplanes as well as incorporating Trump’s own scandals into the piece, albeit very slyly.

    I do feel however that the piece doesn’t pay enough attention to how the victims of these assaults are affected. The piece reports the incidents as nothing more than an action taking place at a certain time and place with no emotion or trauma behind it. Also I can see why this article was placed in the travel section, however I feel like it could have found a better home on a more frequented page as it’s an issue that has very big impacts on those whose lives it touches.

  8. I thought that the article didn’t do a great job of putting the issue into perspective. The author mentions that 58 sexual assaults were being prosecuted and this is an increase from 40 the previous year. However, the author doesn’t mention estimates of how many sexual assaults happen yearly or point out how part of this rise could be due to women feeling more comfortable reporting cases of sexual misconduct to the authorities due to the resurgence of feminist discourse within the United States. I do, however, understand that putting this data in context like this may lessen the impact of the story. Perhaps a useful point of comparison would have been groping on subways; it happens a lot. women shouldn’t have to deal with it and it’s been very normalized.

    I feel ambivalent about the article being in the Travel section. On one hand, it is a travel issue but it is also a gendered, public health issue. Maybe it doesn’t happen enough to be a public health problem in the same way that sexual assault generally is. I understand how when journalism was only in print, the medium necessitated that editors put an article in a single section but digitizing the form should allow for an article to be put into multiple sections.

  9. I totally agree with you, Emilie, that this article took an oft-covered topic and gave it a new and interesting angle by changing the setting from college campuses and workplaces etc. to a place where most people find themselves in the space of a year, but never consider might be a place to fear for their safety. That’s something I’m trying to think about for my own feature—trying to take an issue that is in ongoing problem, but giving it an interesting perspective that will make it stand out and “newsy.”‘

    I also thought that the lede and nut graph were very attention-grabbing—it’s not dry with all the facts, but it makes you want to know what those three seemingly different things have in common. It also ties the issue to the current political climate with Donald Trump’s remarks about groping women. Overall, I thought it was a well-written and thoughtful piece that raises the question about this being an issue no one may have thought about, but ultimately leaves it open for more research and an ongoing discussion to take place.

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