Quanisha Pitts vs. Paris Hilton: It’s No Contest
This is a fascinating entry on the L.A. Times‘s Homicide Blog:
“One reporter? One single reporter?”
Solomon Martin, 71, was forthright about what he thought about a reporter for The Homicide Report walking down his Compton street last month after a homicide.
“They send you, by yourself? Where are your lights? Where are your trucks? Your cameras?” he demanded. “You can tell your supervisor that I was displeased! Displeased with you coming out here with a little digital camera–a little digital camera–for this! Where are your trucks?” Martin, a retired school-district worker, assumed a look of disgust. “One single reporter,” he repeated. “To do a story that will be three lines on page 20.”
Where are the trucks, Mr. Martin? I’ll tell you. They’re downtown, covering Paris Hilton. Meanwhile, you were certainly naive to assume that Quanisha Pitts would merit any space at all in the vaunted print edition:
The story was about 17-year-old Quanisha Pitts, who was killed down the block from where Martin lives. In fact, the write-up didn’t appear in the Los Angeles Times print edition, but rather on this web page. But even here, the space was short, and Martin is quite correct in noting that many homicides covered by The Times are afforded only briefs of a few lines buried within the California section, or the scantest mention on the lists published here.
What Mr. Martin fails to understand is that, in serious journalism, you have to prioritize. There just isn’t space for every slaughtered teenaged black girl in Compton — not when the paper has to find room for a dozen stories about Paris Hilton.
Count ’em up. Meanwhile, Quanisha Pitts doesn’t even merit three lines in the print edition.
Martin and two of his neighbors, who soon join the conversation, believe murders in Compton in particular get short shrift. They are disturbed in ways that they struggled to articulate by the way media outlets treat stories about the killings of their city’s men and women.
“It’s the way you report it,” said Martin’s neighbor, military reservist Walt Graham, 53, (near left, above) who came over from his front yard. “It’s just going to be someone killed in Compton, on page 25,” he said.
“Just another story. Another minority kid. So what.”
Well, if the reaction of the news media is any gauge, this story is not a thousandth as important as the plight of Paris Hilton — a white woman who is rich and famous due to no particular talent — having to go to jail for a few days for violating probation.
Celebrity homicides are covered differently, they contend, as are those rare killings in nice neighborhoods, such as that of the college student killed in Westwood years ago. “When does the value of life in this community matter as much as in another community?” Graham demanded. “Is the life of that young lady any less important?”
The effect, said Martin, is to create an impression that people in Compton are somehow different–that their concerns can somehow be discounted. “You let them know that we want the same things as people in Torrance and Beverly Hills,” he said. “We don’t want to worry about someone shooting up our house. We want the same protection.”
“You tell your editors to get down here, that they don’t have to be afraid of us,” he concluded.
They’re not afraid of you, Mr. Martin. Well, maybe some of them are . . . but that’s not why they’re not covering Ms. Pitts’s story in the print edition. It just won’t sell. Don’t you get it? The L.A. Times isn’t going to have its largest month in Web traffic ever by running stories about Quanisha Pitts.
P.S. You can’t blame Jill Leovy of the Homicide Blog. She’s doing the best she can to cover the epidemic of killings in South Central.
UPDATE: Here is Ms. Pitts’s picture, from a MySpace page found on Google:
It’s evil and tragic what happened to Quanisha Pitts.
I commend you for writing about it.Christoph (bad4f9) — 6/9/2007 @ 6:03 pm
And it’s not on the agenda. Even though it’s an unsolved crime and some journalistic activism might help solve it.
Priorities, dontcha know.
Let’s hope justice has more room for Quanisha Pitts than the Times does.Pablo (99243e) — 6/9/2007 @ 6:29 pm
I wish we could mourn all the poor victims. And I really wish that we could reduce crime and have fewer of them. Its getting bad in our inner city, but only the leadership of the innercity can decide that they want to reduce crime and have fewer Quanishas. God bless her.gm (9e9332) — 6/9/2007 @ 6:34 pm
Well yes but.
But. The murder epidemic in South Central is due to one single thing:
There are not enough empowered police who have the ability absent PC to do what is needed to arrest the killers before they kill.
Who’s killing the women, children, men, elderly, etc. of South Central? Who killed Quanisha Pitts?
The Klan? Al Qaeda? Martians?
No. She was probably killed by someone who lives there.
The Community of South Central made it very clear (when they voted against tax increases for more police under Hahn, voted in Mayor Tony for firing Bernie Parks, and demanded the heads of the LAPD for the Brown death when he tried to run over a cop) that they were fine with these killings.
The Community of South Central doesn’t care either. Any more than the LAT.
I’m all for blasting the Times, but here it’s not warranted. No one in South Central is interested in stopping these killings. They might scream and shout for the cameras, but they certainly don’t want (because they protest against it all the time):
*Arrest of gangbangers who comprise the vast majority of the killers.
*Lots of empowered police who do what’s needed to stop the killing.
People in South Central are not stupid, foolish, or morons. They made an adult decision that they PREFER the killings to a mostly white police force arresting young gangbangers and sending them to prison. No one in South Central gives one damn about Quanisha Pitts, outside of her family. And if they don’t care none of the city will either.
It’s pretty obvious WHY the (formerly mostly) Black community in South Central don’t want their gangbangers in jail instead of out killing: they are the shock troops against latinization, and they are like the Serbs in say, 1994 unwilling to give up their militias. However they face unlimited manpower from Mexico and so will of course be forced out anyway.
LA went through this before when the Crack epidemic hit the gangs and the wars waged without concern (because the Black Community again chose to keep it’s gang banging militias over policing). Until Westwood saw UCLA middle class student Karen Toshima killed in a shootout and realized that the gangs/militias needed a good dose of suppression otherwise those upper class enclaves and wealthy real estate would drop to the price of a ranch house in Watts. Which isn’t much. Thus the gangs were purged out of the West Side.
I utterly cynically expect the same thing to happen, the rest of the city not to care (since the people of South Central clearly don’t either) until the violence erupts on the Westside somewhere and puts that real estate investment at risk. And we’ll get that Police Chief who threatened to hang people at the airport approach.
Let’s at least keep the flapdoodle down to manageable levels.Jim Rockford (e09923) — 6/9/2007 @ 8:47 pm
Hoorah for writing this, Patrick. I’ll disagree to some extent with Rockford. After 28 years in law enforcement, starting in So Central LA, I will still believe that the common folks there support the LAPD. They are the ones suffering, they know the cause (which is much as JR wrote–their own neighbors) and they want police enforcement. They don’t even mind a little heavy-handednss now and then. No political correctness when they are the victim.
They come and speak to us at a crime scene–secretly–so as not to draw attention to themselves. Unfortunately, their spokespersons/elected leaders don’t represent what I found to be this truth.
From time to time, a series will appear in the LAT about a crime spree or serial killer in So LA. Typically, the LAPD will get the blame–we don’t care enough since the victims are (black/prostitutes/fillintheblank). In reality, we often feel that we are the ones who care the most, or even the only ones who truly care at all, if the victim has no family. We despise and want to arrest predators whoever and wherever they are.
(I’ll grant that CAs/DAs care also, but not to the extent of the patrol officer/detective, because they are not there on the front lines seeing and living with it like we do.)
Cops spent considerable time with Ms. Pitts, coming out from home in the middle of the night, if that was the time of her demise. They’ll work countless hours, and will soon know her better than almost anyone did. They will not cease working to find her killer, no matter how long it takes.
The LAT knows nothing about her, and never will. Next week, she will be entirely forgotten, unless she becomes one in a string of deaths of young black women in So LA, at which time she stands the chance of being resurrected as one item in a series of articles attacking law enforcement in the black community.ManlyDad (d62cf6) — 6/9/2007 @ 9:18 pm
Patterico, I’m not sure what your point is here. Murders in Compton aren’t news, and if you were editing the LAT you wouldn’t give them much space either. It has nothing to do with the “value” of the victim, to her family or anyone else; stories don’t get covered because they “deserve” to be, like some sort of news socialism, but because the audience wants to learn about them. Anything unusual is newsworthy: a person killed by a mountain lion is news, but the same person if killed by a car is not, because people get killed by cars every day. If we had mountain lions killing people every day of the year, such deaths would quickly stop being news. And murders in Compton are like deaths by car, not by mountain lion. Now that fact alone is worth a feature article or two, but that’s not going to send hordes of reporters to cover the death of the next Ms Pitts.Milhouse (ef8775) — 6/9/2007 @ 9:58 pm
It’s interesting that the LA Times’ editors are running so many Paris Hilton stories in lieu of reporting Quanisha Pitt’s death and other local news. I agree that this shows how the editors prioritize and that the Times made these choices because Paris Hilton stories sell and Quanisha Pitts stories don’t. But it also reveals something about the demographics of LA Times’ readers, who apparently crave celebrity news 24/7. That can’t be good news for the future of the LA Times unless the goal is to become a daily version of People Magazine.DRJ (2d5e62) — 6/9/2007 @ 9:59 pm
People get killed in Iraq every week.
Are they going to start a blog about it, and stop reporting the deaths in the print paper?
Guess not.Patterico (eeb415) — 6/9/2007 @ 10:10 pm
People get jail time for violating probation every day, too.
Is something mundane suddenly newsworthy because it happens to a no-talent celebrity who is famous for being famous?Patterico (eeb415) — 6/9/2007 @ 10:11 pm
Btw, ManlyDad’s comments are right on — although believe me, once a case gets into the system, we care.Patterico (eeb415) — 6/9/2007 @ 10:19 pm
People being murdered in South LA is commonplace. Paris Hilton going to jail is not. I would feel more sympathy for Mr. Martin and his neighbors if the community was more helpful in solving homicides. From what I have read, they are not.sam (8c66ab) — 6/10/2007 @ 4:20 am
“equal protection of the law” just doesn’t translate into “equal news value” or “equal column-inches of reportage”, one of the sad, bitter truths of this planet. i was able to find happiness in obscurity, you can too.assistant devil's advocate (fc45f8) — 6/10/2007 @ 6:28 am
Do I think the police are going to do any less of a job finding those responsible for Ms. Pitts death? Nope. So, what does it matter if her murder is not covered 24/7? The people who can make a difference are well aware of her murder. I just hope they come forward and help the police.sam (8c66ab) — 6/10/2007 @ 6:32 am
You can include their newspaper in that group as well, so I have to agree with Patterico. Ms. Pitts simply does not fit their narrative, which requires minorities to be portrayed as victims of White racism or victims of capitalism. The Democrats have done a marvelous job of building a machine in LA–a little rage against the machine would be in order. Activists occasionally speak up, but in a one-paper left wing town, nobody’s going to hear them scream.Patricia (824fa1) — 6/10/2007 @ 7:35 am
Why the media cover stories about cute white girls…
And if the media don’t cover stories about black men and women being killed, it’s because nobody cares. Oh, we say that such are important, and that we really care, but it just doesn’t sell.Common Sense Political Thought (819604) — 6/10/2007 @ 10:28 am
I urge you to reconsider this statement. There’s no indication that Mr. Martin and his neighbors actively shielded criminals in their community. At a minimum, I think Quanisha’s family and their neighbors deserve our sympathy unless you can show a reason why they don’t.DRJ (2d5e62) — 6/10/2007 @ 10:38 am
In fact, Sam, please re-read the linked article. Martin and his neighbors sound like good people and good neighbors. They care about Quanisha’s death and their Compton community. Don’t blame them because they live in a neighborhood where the houses “only” cost a half million apiece.DRJ (2d5e62) — 6/10/2007 @ 10:43 am
You’re right. I should not have substituted Mr. Martin and the neighbors for the community of south central Los Angeles, where there is a big problem with citizens coming forward to help the police to solve homicides.sam (8c66ab) — 6/10/2007 @ 10:45 am
[…] 11th, 2007 by scrubone Patterico points out the extent of the LA Time’s obsession with Paris Hilton. Check out all these […]LA Times Obsessed with Paris « Something should go here, maybe later. (1da91b) — 6/11/2007 @ 12:24 am
There may be a number of reasons the residents of South Central do not cooperate with police:
Community solidarity against the police would probably be the first eveyone would think of. I prefer to think that self preservation may be at play. The police cannot protect witnesses and their families.davod (3392f5) — 6/11/2007 @ 6:05 am
“… It just won’t sell. …”
I don’t believe that is the reason. I think that liberals downplay crime news because they don’t want to stir people up. I think if the LA Times covered stories by what people want to read they would do more crime stories including crimes with black victims.James B. Shearer (fc887e) — 6/11/2007 @ 9:12 am