Patterico's Pontifications


“Who Do I Have to Kill to Get in the Paper?” — Jack Dunphy Explains

Filed under: Crime,Dog Trainer,General,Media Bias — Patterico @ 6:31 am

Jack Dunphy has an excellent piece at Pajamas Media regarding what it takes to get a murder reported by Big Media nowadays. His piece begins:

It’s often difficult to predict when a crime story will tickle the media’s antennae. I still recall the puzzlement I felt when, early in my police career, I would be at the scene of some gang murder in South-Central Los Angeles waiting for the newspaper and television reporters to arrive. They seldom did, and I came to learn that most crimes in the inner city, even murders, were somehow considered less than newsworthy. Little has changed.

Jack sets out the calculus for whether a story gets coverage:

The Los Angeles Times and the local television stations seem to employ a peculiar calculus when deciding to cover a crime story, and in the event they do, how much coverage to give it. Among the factors weighed in this calculus are the number and age of the victims, their perceived culpability (i.e. the sympathy factor), and the crime’s proximity to a white neighborhood. . . . Today, with violence in Los Angeles on the decline, there is a new variable in the calculus of determining a given crime’s newsworthiness: the inter-racial factor. When a black gang member kills another black gang member it will most likely be ignored in the media, just as when both the murderer and the murdered are Latinos. But let a Latino gang member kill a black one, or vice versa, now that’s a story.

Read it all.

This is a good day for this piece to come out, because it dovetails nicely with the post immediately below, about Hillary’s pandering visit to Compton yesterday. There is no indication that she talked about the war in our inner cities. Why should she? The newspapers don’t.

In that post, I talk about a shooting case I handled where four teenaged boys were shot, blocks from the church where Hillary spoke. Four boys. Did you hear about it on the news? Was it a nationwide story? Of course not. Just another day in Compton.

Down the street from the church where Hillary spoke, I used to teach classes of fifth-graders about staying out of a life of gangs and crime. I talked about it in this November 2003 post:

[T]here was a skit that involved someone being shot. I asked the students to raise their hands if they had ever heard gunfire from their houses.

Every hand in the room went up.

I asked them to raise their hands if a family member or friend had been shot.

Every hand but two went up.

How does Hillary not talk about that? How does the Los Angeles Times not talk about that? Why does our California section report the deaths of soldiers from Indiana with no connection to California who died in Iraq, but not the deaths of young teenaged girls gunned down in Compton?

Read all of Jack’s piece for more insight into the question. Click here.

24 Responses to ““Who Do I Have to Kill to Get in the Paper?” — Jack Dunphy Explains”

  1. Seems to me that this is a simple economic calculation on the part of the LA Times, and a correct one.

    More people will want to read a story on Paris Hilton acting like a fool, or on a pretty white girl getting killed by stray gunfire, than one on poor black kids being killed in a poor black neighborhood.

    I’m not saying this is right–it’s appalling–but I believe it is true, and the papers know it.

    Put one paper on a newsstand with a report on a intra-racial shooting in a poor black neighborhood on the front page. Put another paper next to it with a story on Paris Hilton on the front page. Which will sell more?

    It’s not the media, it’s the readers–or to put it more in economic terms, supply is following demand.

    VR (ec8915)

  2. (should have kept this all in one comment, but I thought to add this right as i hit the “submit” button)

    I think the reason that stories about white kids getting killed, or about celebrities being fools, are more popular is a combination of latent racism and a desire on the part of many middle-class people to close their eyes to poverty. Poverty makes middle class people feel guilty, so they don’t want to see it.

    And, they don’t care when poor black people get shot, because they are “other” and therefore sympathy is limited–but when a white person is killed, particularly in or near a middle-class or upper-class neighborhood, there is more sympathy because the bulk of the readsership feels more kinship with them.

    My 2 cents anyway.

    VR (ec8915)

  3. The L.A. SLIMES will covor a story when it involves a shooting and lots of bloodshed

    krazy kagu (5c5ef3)

  4. Poverty makes middle class people feel guilty, so they don’t want to see it.

    This is true; I would just qualify this with, it’s even more true if the people aren’t doing anything to help poor people out. Left a somewhat long post on the other thread about having a nearly 20 year stint in the inner city, and in my experience, there is a race factor (infuriatingly, there are still out-and-out racists in our society) but I think it’s much more so about poverty and wealthier people seeing poor people, who frequently have what a former co-worker at an inner city clinic called “very disorderly lives,” as “other.”

    “Disorderly lives” was his shorthand for the almost total lack of a stable family structure in many families, going on for generations in many cases, and chaos is not too strong a word for what that engenders in a family and its children, and the children’s future lives: emotionally (lots of rage in these children), developmentally, maturity-wise, spiritually, even physically (and I’m not even speaking of getting murdered, as pointed out above).

    IMO, this is the biggest single factor in seeing poor people in the inner city as “other.” For people who have not grown up in such a fractured family situation, it takes a special effort and caring to understand what that does, potentially permanently (if no one steps in) to the life of a child. And many people don’t bother to make that effort. IMO, that’s where a big part of the “other” attitude so aptly expressed by VR comes in.

    no one you know (1f5ddb)

  5. No, the LAT doesn’t want to report the murders in this city/county because it makes the local democrat politicians look as incompetent as they really are.

    Remember, Mayor I Clean Your Toilets! has been yapping on how he has reduced crime in this city. Can’t make him look like the fool he really is.

    tired (eb53e6)

  6. That’s what ghettos are for. Prisons too. To encapsulate an insoluble problem and to isolate it from the rest of society. In every respect, not just geographically. Out of sight, out of mind.

    nk (95162d)

  7. It isn’t just The Los Angeles Times that has such seeming definitions of newsworthiness; The Philadelphia Inquirer is the same way.

    The City of Brotherly Love seems to have fewer black drug gang vs Latino drug gang incidents, but that’s just demographics. But when one black thug kills another black thug, nobody cares. It’s only when the innocent bystander or a young black man who seemed to be escaping ghetto life (you know: the first one in his family to go to college type story) that it gets press.

    Dana (3e4784)

  8. Our ancestors were more honest or just less “sophisticated”. They built real walls, from rocks and mortar, around the ghettos. We get by with “virtual” walls which include the non-reporting of the horrid conditions in our little Darfurs.

    nk (95162d)

  9. Mr. Frey: I was born in Compton. When I was born there, it was a different place than it is now, just as it is now a different place than when I was a boy in the 70s.

    My parents got me out of there when I was young, but I wanted to say that I admire your attempts to help young people there, rather than just avert your head and do nothing. What you do may not matter to 99.9% of the kids, but that 0.1% will care.

    Sorry for the sermon.

    Eric Blair (839cfb)

  10. Would you like a list of names?

    arch (9bc312)

  11. Dear arch, if you are another person from an area like Compton, to whom guidance and belief in you as being valuable mattered, I salute you.

    We all tend to sound off when we don’t like something or someone. Sadly, we tend to just be silent about things that work, or people who genuinely try hard to make a sacrifice.

    I was just trying to say “thanks,” no more.

    Eric Blair (839cfb)

  12. When it comes to our media, nothing surprises me. The NYTimes can put out 7000 words about a handful of Military vets who have committed murder in the US over the last 5 years and link it to some kind of fault with our Military culture, yet will ignore the fact that inner city blacks commit murder at a rate nearly 6 times higher than those same vets. Of course, to point this out would be “racist”, because we all know that asking the black community to take any form of responsibility for their own actions is tantamount to a lynching or a cross burning.
    I’m middle class, why should I feel guilty that certain people continue to wallow in self pity and victim hood, continue to shirk responsibility for their actions, and at nearly every opportunity refuse to cooperate with authorities when it comes to violent crime in their own neighborhoods? The same people who scream about “the man” being the source of all of their problems, but have no problem taking handouts from that same “man”.
    Maybe when our elected leaders start pointing out the obvious problems with the cultural constructs of our inner city poor, and actually tailoring programs to change that culture to one that is more cohesive and effective, then we might start seeing some change.
    As it stands now, politicians are fully adept at pandering to these people, playing upon their fears and stereotypes, and counting on their support during each election cycle, but refuse to ever call these groups out on their own self destructive behavior and ask them to step up and take on some of the responsibility that is required to make a positive change. All I ever see is “I feel your pain” and finger pointing at some wicked bogeyman who has little to do with these people’s problems.
    I’ve spent time in some of the poorest regions of Africa, yet I’ve never seen the kind of cultural dysfunction that presents itself in American poor inner cities. The kind of opportunity available to even the poorest American bears no comparison to say a poor Somali. There continues to be a consistent mantra of “its someone else’s fault” and almost zero accountability from American inner city poor. Until that changes, nothing will change.

    gabriel (6d7447)

  13. Dana:

    I knew of many murders that never made the news when I lived in Philly.

    The sad thing is that the lack of coverage encourages the sense that everything is OK, or that the violence is acceptable. Thus the urban nonchalant life in a big city attitude.

    Minorities are hardest hit. They end up thinking others are out to get them, when in reality they are murdering themselves. This is the real toleration – toleration of unacceptable behavior.

    Amphipolis (fdbc48)

  14. You have to send out enough properly targeted press releases. Then you have to send out more properly targeted press releases, saying that publications are responding well to the news of (insert initial press release.) Then you send out the initial press releases again.

    Hey, it works some of the time!

    htom (412a17)

  15. Compton is getting a bad rap. If you drive around in Compton, you will see blocks upon blocks of small working class homes, neat as a pin, and with immaculate lawns.

    tired (eb53e6)

  16. I think part of the reporting issue is also that “news” is usually defined as something new or different happening.

    When someone is murdered in a middle class suburb, where there are almost never any murders, it is “news.”

    When someone is murdered in the inner-city, where murders occur regularly, it is not considered news.

    In the moderate sized city I live in, the local media cover all of the murders in the poorer areas, and there are a lot (per capita, one of the highest murder rates in NY). The local media usually also do follow-ups of the murders (i.e., stories of funerals, stories of the criminal case if a perp is arrested, etc.).

    In a huge city like L.A., however, there probably is simply too much crime in these areas to cover regularly and consider “news”.

    Great Banana (aa0c92)

  17. It’s simple. It’s not racism, it’s not middle class guilt. These events aren’t “new” so they aren’t “news.” The news would be when these things stop. But don’t expect the paper to report it when this kind of stuff stops, either. Not because of racism or guilt. Because something not happening is not news worthy, generally. If the sun don’t rise, that’ll be news.

    quasimodo (edc74e)

  18. Fuhgeddabowdit, newspapers are just a product for sale after all. Here are three of my favorite newspaper quotes:

    “Newspapers are unable, seemingly, to discriminate between a bicycle accident and the collapse of civilization.” – George Bernard Shaw

    “Don’t worry over what the newspapers say. I don’t. Why should anyone else? I told the truth to the newspaper correspondents – but when you tell the truth to them they are at sea.” – William Howard Taft

    “Putting out a newspaper without promotion is like winking at a girl in the dark — well-intentioned, but ineffective.” – William Randolph Hearst

    JayHub (0a6237)

  19. A liberal brain is incapable of processing truth and facts. If they could they would laugh Shrillary (a lifetime of crime) and Obama (a polished Islamic con man) off the stage.

    Scrapiron (c36902)

  20. Simple answer: when gunfire and murder are regular routine in doesn’t. by definition, count as news. Sad, but true!

    Don L (408ff3)

  21. And just how much of this “middle-class, liberal guilt” is just (insert German word I can’t spell here that means “There but for the Grace of God, go I)?

    My grand-parents lived in Compton (in the Willowbrook district) in the immediate, post-war years (they came to CA from KS after the Dust Bowl). I can remember sitting on the porch watching the Red-cars go back and forth to Long Beach. They commented how, just in the few years they had been there, how Willowbrook was changing: How the Hispanics were being slowly pushed out by the Blacks pushing south from Watts. Now, when I drive past their old house, the neighborhood is almost entirely Hispanic as the Blacks have all moved out.

    Compton itself, in the 1940’s, was still a mostly, White, working-class city with a vibrant shopping district centered on a very large Sears. The last time a White represented Compton in Congress (early 60’s), he was a Republican.

    Has the LAT under-reported the crime problem? We, who live here, know they do. The question though, is this a crime of ommission, or comission? Are they trying to cover Tony Villar’s backside, or are they just blind to the reality that they are keeping from their readership?

    I think their venality stinks!

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  22. Guns do not belong in society.
    Not any more.
    People are out of control, and the NRA looks the other way.
    The NRA is full of bs when it says that guns don’t kill people, and people kill people.
    The fact is that people use guns to kill other people.
    Tell your leaders that you do NOT want guns in society!
    The next death may be yours.
    Don’t believe me?
    Just look at your town or city.
    Enough said.
    I am,

    George Vreeland Hill

    George Vreeland Hill (27739c)

  23. GV Hill, people use knives, hammers, saws, cars, drugs, hands, bricks, bathtubs, water….

    all to kill people….

    all of these are useful in society….

    Guns protect people too, making them useful, especially to me…

    Please, just shut up…

    reff (99666d)

  24. freudian economic bullshit a la sasha baron cohen

    the elastic on all american bras are showing signs of stretching. the drop tit index of the american economy is quite revealing and disgusting. horny cheney is ready to shoot a few more friends as a bonus.
    bushes bum buddy condoleezza says it all. comment in todays press. more us soldiers in the middle east will reap more DIVIDENDS. georgy porgy exclaims i will talk personally to the king of saudi arabia. we want more condom lubricant black oil from opec. clinton of the great blow job has been lost in the mists of time. a slowdown in the usof hay will hurt the american people. pussies could run dry and hurt us all. wow.massive brain dementia and decay is the price the world pays for the immense IQ levels of american leadership. we love you america. personally i have decided to mainline coca cola tonight to increase my american style ORGASMIC DIVIDEND.. dr adam rosenblatt nee sasha baron cohen of borat fame.

    rosenblattadam9 (f7bd7f)

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