The Tragic Story of Phoebe Prince

Friday, May 27, 2011


In the wake of 15-year-old Phoebe Prince's tragic suicide, the media narrative about her death was tragically familiar: she was bullied to death by mean girls and predatory boys. But the truth is much more complicated says Slate’s Emily Bazelon. Bazelon has investigated this story for months. She's interviewed one of the students accused of bullying - the first time any of the alleged bullies has spoken with the media. Bazelon explains how the media misreported this story and why it matters.

Comments [15]

Ria from wherever

This interview was disgustingly biased. Emily's article where she characterized Phoebe as some sort of relationship wrecker was a real work of fiction. So some person says that in their opinion Phoebe was a w-word so now its Phoebe's own fault that she was bullied? Wow, like that's really a fact! Emily makes the point that the media wrote the wrong story on Phoebe's bullying but her own article was also based purely on people's opinion. If people interviewed the victims of the bullies then they would get a picture of mean girls hounding a poor girl to death. If you interview the mean girls, their friends and their families, of course they will say that it was Phoebe's fault! What do you expect? This was a horrible interview on every level.

Sep. 29 2012 05:49 PM
debra cook


Apr. 01 2012 07:39 PM
Flora Wang

Disgusted and appalled at OTM's decision to air this "interview" with Bazelon who is a sorry excuse for a journalist. Also disgusted at Bob Garfield's adoring interview and obvious bias -it sounded more like a fan interview than a balanced interview that I expected of OTM. I have read the Slate piece (which was published in 2010 and is puzzlng to me why OTM chooses to run this piece now) and Bazelon's argument that Prince set in motion the actions herself because she suffered from mental illness is absolutely appalling. I also disagree with her claim that the bullies are victimized by the media and her attempts that we should sympathize with them because they will have to live with this for the rest of their life. I am disgusted with OTM, Bob Garfield and Bazelon.

May. 31 2011 04:26 AM
Flora Wang

I am appalled and disgusted by OTM's decision to run this dreadfully biased interview of Emily Bazelon. I am also puzzled as to why OTM is running this interview with this sorry excuse for a reporter when her original article ran in January of 2010 and the case has already ended. I am also angry that OTM did not air any other opinions or commentary on the news and instead chose to represent the Prince story with this adoring interview of Bazelon. I have read the Slate piece, and it is abhorrent to me that Bazelon essentially argues that the teens who made this poor girl's life hell themselves were victimized by the media and that we should somehow feel sympathy for these monsters because their futures are ruined for ACTS THAT THEY COMMITTED is ridiculous. She suggests that Phoebe set the events in motion due to her own mental illness. Maybe Bazelon will start publishing articles that claim women should be raped because they dress provocatively.

May. 31 2011 04:21 AM

Anyone know what music was played directly after this piece?

May. 30 2011 03:10 PM
Mark Mandell

OTM is one of the finest programs on public radio, but this story was not up to par. Disturbing to hear someone (Emily Bazelon) so enthralled by "the truth," yet unable to articulate it. Also disturbing to hear the host gush ("you SCORED an interview"?) like a schoolgirl instead of pressing the reporter to explain the apparent bias and factual choices/omissions in her presentation. Is OMT supposed to uncover media incompetence, or celebrate it? In this case, sorry to say it did both.

May. 30 2011 11:21 AM
alex from paris

I agree with the comment #6. I was so bewildered by the "reporter's" opinion, that these were just normal kids, that I came on to leave a comment. Of course some people like these girls, that's why they feel secure enough to torture the less fortunate. Of course they don't show their worst sides to people they want to stay on good terms with. I have just had to intervene in my own daughter's social circle (7 yrs old!), in order to stop the new power one girl found in telling the rest of the group not to play with whoever she chose. In this case, don't you think the parents might have seen their kids were not so darling?
And this never stops...some people are nasty and whether they are 7, 16, or 45 or whatever, it keeps going until people start to notice and take action, not say, "oh, but they were so nice to me." Talk about having blinders on!!

May. 30 2011 07:17 AM
Ned Daly from Massachusetts

I am a frequent listener, and was very disappointed in Bob Garfield's piece with Ms. Bazelon. There was almost no discussion of what the media has actually reported abut the Prince case in the last year. In particular,neither Garfield nor Bazelon mentioned the columnist Kevin Cullen, writing in The Boston Globe. I think that without his work, the whole case would have been swept under the rug.

Much more importantly, the piece ignored one crucial fact. Not a bias, or a nuance, or an irregularity, a fact.

The case has been adjudicated.

The accused have been brought before the bar of justice and sentences have been handed down.

Didn't your listeners deserve to know this?

Before we can examine intention and nuance and tone and balance, we need to report the facts.

NPR owes us this much, at least.

May. 29 2011 06:39 PM

I am sorry you didn't ask Bazelon if how this incident has changed her view of her own reporting. There are times as in the end of Duke and Hostra where she has spoken out against false accusations after it's become 100000% obvious the accusations were false. And then there are the other articles she's written in which she states that false accusations, while real, aren't actually a significant problem that deserves attention.

How has Bazelon's view of the sausage factory, changed her view of her own sausage?

May. 29 2011 04:52 PM
Jo Sullivan from Lynn, MA

If this story was nuanced, Bob Garfield showed none. Where were other voices? other reporters?

1) Bullies and other predators seek out vulnerable victims, such as in this case.

2) If media missed the complexities, I saw this in the other direction. On Greater Bpston with Emily Rooney, in a followup story on South Hadley, this year, Gus Sayre, the Supt. made light of the problem and basically said girls will be girls, a parent and a student focused on "correcting" the false impressions of So. Hadley H.S. Not one of the people interviewed (Adam Riley's bias, or locals?) acknowledged that bullying was or had been a problem, that something tragic had happened, and that there is work to do.

May. 29 2011 04:37 PM

I watched this exact kind of thing go on every day in my high school between the popular girls. They'd all sleep with each other's boyfriends, or even just attract each other's boyfriends and then hate each other for it, never thinking it was the guys who were the pigs. I personally never dated any boys in my school for this reason. Couldn't handle the public spectacle. But no one ever killed themselves over it. Sounds like Phoebe Prince had a lot going on with the separation of her parents and being so far away from her dad. Plus she was on medication for mood swings and depression. Plus, she seemed to be doing her part to use attention from boys as a way to cope with her loneliness. She did it in at least two other schools before the one in Mass.

No one makes anyone kill themselves. That's a choice made by the suicide victim. If these six kids deserve to have their futures ruined –statutory rape, really? Come on!–then so do most teenagers in America.

May. 29 2011 09:58 AM

"We all know that teenage girls, in particular, can have a Jekyll and Hyde aspect to their personalities, especially when they run in packs. " Wow, Mark. Project much?

May. 29 2011 09:32 AM
Bill Madigan from Newton, MA

By mistake I put in the name Mark Sullivan in my 4th paragraph instead of the host's name, Bob Garfield.

May. 28 2011 03:46 PM
Bill Madigan from Newton, MA

At the beginning of this interview, Emily Bazelon's insinuates that the prosecution of the six teenagers was unfair - because the kids she interviewed in the South Hadley high school said that they were not afraid of those six kids. As if the six kids were unfairly prosecuted because they were a pox on the community. No, they were prosecuted because they hounded one girl to death.

I came away with the sense that these kids were popular. According to what Bazelon chose to quote on your show, what Phoebe encountered was limited to " a lot of girl drama...". So Phoebe simply overreacted?

Bazelon lumps all the media together. Is that accurate reporting? What was reported by the media did not just come from the prosecution, as Bazelon claims - an odd claim since the prosecution started long after the story broke.

The six kids were hounded by the media, "creating a second set of victims" according to Bazelon. Well, their actions resulted in the death of a young girl, and the public took notice. I got the sense that Bazelon thought the six kids were victimized as much as Phoebe Prince, and that she, Bazelon, courageously bucked the wicked media by coming to their defense. Mark Sullivan apparently that so too, as his tone of voice was very sympathetic to Bazelon throughout the interview; he did not deploy his challenging tone of voice he often uses in interviews. Is not Slate part of the media? Shouldn't he have been a bit challenging?

How about another point of view? He bent over backwards to champion Bazelon, saying that she took a risk appearing to be an apologist for bullies, then asking " why would that be a grotesque mischaracterization?"
In your interview, Bazelon oversimplifies what occurred to make her point, exactly what she accuses the media of having done, and in that process makes herself out to be the champion of the "second set of victims", as if the six kids were as much a victim as Phoebe Prince.

May. 28 2011 03:37 PM
Mark Sullivan from Rochester Hills, MI

I found the story you ran on the Slate reporter Emily Bazelon's re-write of the history of the tragic story of Phoebe Prince’s suicide to be both disgusting and apologetic. It seems to me that Ms Bazelon was projecting herself on the story and worked hard to support her perception of the story. The fact that the friends of the girls who drove Ms. Prince to suicide were seen as nice people is meaningless. We all know that teenage girls, in particular, can have a Jekyll and Hyde aspect to their personalities, especially when they run in packs. The fact is that these girls did drive Ms Prince to suicide, and that is the only thing we need to know

May. 28 2011 08:38 AM

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