As is happening with today's report about the gang of students at a Toronto Catholic high school who terrorized and sexually assaulted a girl at the school for months on end.
So informed readers have developed the same sort of forensic skills that readers of the old Soviet press did to get the truth behind the story.
Let's take this Toronto Star article on the incident:
Sixteen high school students have been charged after a 16-year-old girl told police she was sexually assaulted in a case of extreme bullying that went on for more than a year.
The victim, a student at James Cardinal McGuigan Catholic high school in the Keele St.-Finch Ave. W. area of Toronto, was allegedly forced by male students to commit sexual acts in stairwells and washrooms, both inside the school and in a neighbouring fast-food restaurant.
Anyone familiar with Toronto can make an educated guess about the ethnic background of the alleged assailants from the address.
Yesterday, plainclothes officers stepped up their efforts and went to the school where they arrested two female students and 12 male students — two of whom are adults. Students were led away in handcuffs and taken to 31 Division where they were in custody last night. The males were charged with criminal harassment; the two females with threatening bodily harm. While the names of the accused youths cannot be released, police have not identified the two adults.
Translation: the cops knew which gang they belonged to and leaned on the two weakest links. And it wasn't the girls, because they're probably the girlfriends of the gang leaders and would be stupidly loyal, or scared, or both, to rat them out.
At a news conference yesterday, police said the accused do not have any gang ties, although some are known to police.
So long as they are only alleged assailants, they will also only be alleged gang members. Everybody is alleged until proven guilty, even when they're caught with the smoking gun.
Despite reports from students that the accused are innocent and have been unfairly targeted because they are black and the girl is white, Insp. Tom McIlhone told reporters that race played no part in the arrests.
This is what's commonly known in the business as a "buried lead". If the Star's editors had put this in the lead, their switchboard would have been jammed with angry calls ten minutes after the papers hit the streets.
Of course race played no part in the arrests. They're equal opportunity perp haters.
The North York high school has hired an extra vice-principal, four extra hall monitors and called a parent meeting scheduled for tomorrow to discuss student safety. But what may help even more is to give teachers more training in how to spot the signs of students suffering from sexual harassment, said education director Kevin Kobus of the Toronto Catholic District School Board.
The board's bureaucrats are now engaged in serious CYA mode. None of these actions will likely make the school safer, but they have now been seen to do something. Even though they know they can't do anything.
A new administrator needs something to administrate, and new programs and policies can always be created to justify his continued existence. And unless someone takes positive action to eliminate his position, it will continue, forever and aye.
But another Catholic school trustee said James Cardinal McGuigan has a reputation that drives students to other nearby schools. McGuigan had 50 people at a recent open house; St. Basil-the-Great, about 4 kilometres away, had about 750, said Sal Piccininni.
Note that the Star left out in which direction St. Basil's is four klicks away from Cardinal McGuigan. A quick look at the Google map shows that St. Basil's has country clubs on either side--and country club members will go to the wall to keep housing projects from fouling the sight line to the 19th hole.
What the Star has done is not censorship, not in the crude sense we understand. It is selective concealment and de-emphasis, which reports the facts while denying the uninformed reader the context through which to interpret them.
In effect, it's winking and nudging as a signal to the informed reader, who will know how and what to read between the lines, while leaving the rest of the public no better informed than they were before.
It is a cynical game that the press plays with its audience every day, one that belies their claim to acting as a force for positive social change.
You can't follow the game if you can't tell the score.