Covering crime

At Pajamas Media, Los Angeles police officer Jack Dunphy writes about news coverage of violent crime, specifically about the apparently different standards that apply depending on the race and ethnicity of the victims and the alleged perpetrators (hat tip Patterico).

I said in the comments:

Editors consider many factors in judging whether a particular happening is “newsworthy”; for instance, is it something the people who subscribe to newspapers will be interested in reading about? Or perhaps more to the point, is it something advertisers believe the customers they want to reach will be interested in?

Another is how uncommon the occurrence is, whether it’s “man bites dog” (possibly yes) or “dog bites man” (probably no, unless the dog is a pit bull, and the person bitten is a child, or an adult who dies).

But specifically with regard to coverage of murders, it’s a double bind forced on the media by “activists.” If the media give more attention to white victims or killers, they claim it’s because the editors are white racists who think the lives of people of color are less valuable. If the media give equal attention to all murders, then the picketers are out marching with their signs accusing editors of being white racists who want to emphasize everything that’s bad in minority communities.

As long as crime rates are actually different, there’s no way to balance these competing demands for “fairness.”

About linsee

Linda Seebach retired in 2007 from the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, where she was an editorial writer and columnist.
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