Savage Portrayals: Race, Media, and the Central Park Jogger Story

Temple Univ. Jan. 2014. 242p. notes. index. ISBN 9781439906330. $94.50; pap. ISBN 9781439906347. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9781439906354. LAW
Byfield brings bifocal vision to her analysis of media treatment of the Central Park Jogger story, which she covered in her first career as a journalist for the New York Daily News. The woman iconically referred to as the "Central Park Jogger" was savagely beaten and raped during a late-night run in Central Park in 1989. Shortly thereafter, five teenage boys—not coincidentally African American and Hispanic—were apprehended and confessed to the crime. The problem is that they were innocent and their confessions had been coerced. Tragically, the young men all served substantial jail time before a known violent rapist confessed that he was the actual perpetrator and his claim was substantiated by DNA evidence. From her current perspective as a sociologist (St. John's Univ.), Byfield reexamines the horrific event in light of after-acquired evidence and scholarly methodology, particularly content analysis of news coverage, and she tells a revised story in which issues of race, class, and media bias taint the justice system.
VERDICT A chilling, ultimately instructive portrayal of savage injustice. This book would be best read alongside of, and in contradistinction to, Trisha Meili's I Am the Central Park Jogger: A Story of Hope and Possibility.
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