Media create 'hierarchy of murder.'.During an average year, approximately 200 murders are committed in the St. Louis metropolitan area. In 1997, the last year for which records are complete, 153 murders occurred. But, not every murder is covered by the media. This means a kind of "hierarchy of murder" is used in the media's daily reporting. This different treatment of murders has drawn criticism, especially from the African-American community.
"We are particularly aware of violent crimes that involve African Americans African American Multiculture A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa. See Race. ," says Alvin A. Reid, news editor of the St. Louis American. "But we don't cover every single murder that occurs - we just can't."
Many of the media view their coverage of murders as complete and fair. But, often the public feels the media overemphasize o·ver·em·pha·size
tr. & intr.v. o·ver·em·pha·sized, o·ver·em·pha·siz·ing, o·ver·em·pha·siz·es
To place too much emphasis on or employ too much emphasis. murders involving blacks and underemphasize un·der·em·pha·size
tr.v. un·der·em·pha·sized, un·der·em·pha·siz·ing, un·der·em·pha·siz·es
To fail to give enough emphasis to.
un victims, especially African-American victims. Some of the public also feels the media have a total disregard for the feelings of the victim's family Victim's Family was a hardcore punk band formed in 1984 in Santa Rosa, California by bassist Larry Boothroyd and guitarist and vocalist Ralph Spight. Drummer Devon VrMeer completed the trio. , whose lives are torn apart by such crimes.
"The media have a much different treatment for black crimes than for white crimes," says James Buford, president of the St. Louis Urban League. "They show absolutely no selectivity selectivity /se·lec·tiv·i·ty/ (se-lek-tiv´i-te) in pharmacology, the degree to which a dose of a drug produces the desired effect in relation to adverse effects.
1. when covering murders involving blacks - they just cover them all. But that's not the case when covering crimes with white persons. There is very low coverage of white crimes in the media."
Members of the media adamantly stand behind their reporting of murders. They deny racial prejudice plays any part in their decisions about how murders are covered.
"We just cover murders when there are murders - it's a news story and that is it. We make a point to not include anything racial in the stories unless that is part of the motive. Then we just report on the facts," says Jeff Alan, news director at KDNL (Channel 30).
"We are very sensitive to race issues. Gang-related murders are more common in minority communities. So it may seem like we highlight minority crimes more, but that's just the very nature of those stories."
The media have several factors to consider before deciding to report a murder.
"Every murder is a serious, serious news story that should never be taken lightly by a journalist. It should never be talked away as not newsworthy news·wor·thy
adj. news·wor·thi·er, news·wor·thi·est
Of sufficient interest or importance to the public to warrant reporting in the media.
news . However, we must look at several factors when deciding what to cover and what not to cover," says Alan.
The circumstance of the murder is the one aspect that all the media agree is the determining factor of coverage provided.
"The type of murder, the circumstances surrounding the murder, often determine how we cover it," says Steve Perron Per´ron
n. 1. (Arch.) An out-of-door flight of steps, as in a garden, leading to a terrace or to an upper story; - usually applied to mediævel or later structures of some architectural pretensions. , a producer at KMOV (Channel 4).
The story must have some appeal or interest to the general audience in order to be considered for publication.
"Some people would have us cover every murder the same. But that isn't realistic," says Phil Gaitens, an assistant managing editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is the only major city-wide newspaper in St. Louis, Missouri. Although written to serve Greater St. Louis, the Post-Dispatch is one of the largest newspapers in the region, and is available and read as far west as Springfield, Missouri. . "We have to look at the circumstances of the murder and what is interesting to the public. Murders involving a public place or public figure captures more attention than that of a private individual."
While all murders are horrific, some are markedly different in nature. Murders that include multiple victims or children are perceived to be much more violent than those involving illegal activities or domestic disputes.
"We are less likely to cover a murder involving illegal activities, such as drug dealings, or a classic domestic situation where the members have had an on-going feud feud, formalized private warfare, especially between family groups. The blood feud (see vendetta) is characteristic of those societies in which central government either has not arisen or has decayed. , than one involving children or multiple murders," says Perron.
Critics feel the news media take the is sue of public interest too far by sensationalizing stories, especially murders.
"Everything is over reported. The media sensationalizes murders without showing any responsibility to the families involved," said Buford. "They really need to stop and think about what they are doing to the families and the community; take responsibility. The sensationalism sensationalism, in philosophy, the theory that there are no innate ideas and that knowledge is derived solely from the sense data of experience. The idea was discussed by Greek philosophers and is shown variously in the works of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, George only damages the communities where the murder took place and perpetuates the stereotype stereotype (stĕr`ĕətīp'), plate from which printing is done, made by casting metal in a mold, usually of paper pulp. The process was patented in 1725 by the Scottish inventor William Ged. that all blacks
The All Blacks are New Zealand's national rugby union team. Rugby union is New Zealand's national sport. are irrational, violent animals who are killing each other. All they care about is ratings and selling their papers."
Industry sources deny using murders to draw the audience's attention. They say they rarely promote murders - unless it is a sensational story. Then they try to keep it low-key and provide only the pertinent information the public needs to know.
"We are very careful so we don't come off looking like we are discriminating dis·crim·i·nat·ing
a. Able to recognize or draw fine distinctions; perceptive.
b. Showing careful judgment or fine taste: against one race or another. We take incredible offense when we see it in other media," says Alan.
Members of the media also report that race is never a factor when determining how to cover a murder.
"Race does not play any part in how we cover a murder. Deciding what coverage to give to any particular murder is rarely a simple decision. There are no firm rules to follow," says Perron.
Members of the African-American media say they do tend to focus more on black crimes than those involving whites.
"Being an African-American paper, we have to focus more on black crimes. We are very selective about the murders we cover," says Reid. "However, we don't give credence to whether a white person killed a black person or vice versa VICE VERSA. On the contrary; on opposite sides. and we try not to make judgments as to whose life is worth more."
Critics have a different view of the media and race issues. They claim the media's treatment of murders in the minority community is blatantly racial. They feel the media purposely pur·pose·ly
With specific purpose.
USAGE: See at purposeful.
Adv. 1. places stories in positions to draw attention to them and uses different terminology for blacks than for whites.
"The placement and duration of murders involving blacks is completely different than for whites," says Bufurd. "In newspapers, they seem to place pictures of black victims or suspects where they will draw the most attention. They always include pictures of the black victims and suspect - they hardly ever show a white person's picture. They even use different language when discussing black suspects. They use such things as an irrational, out of control' man when describing a black man, but when talking about a white man who committed the same crime he becomes 'misguided or confused.' When covering a murder involving a black person on television, they always place the story, along with pictures, within the first five to 10 minutes of the newscast newscast
Radio or television broadcast of news events. News gathering and broadcasting by the radio networks began in the mid-1930s and increased significantly during World War II. The television newscast began in 1948 with 15-minute programs that resembled movie newsreels. . Then they go on to repeat the story in every newscast for a couple of days. All of these things "These Things" is an EP by She Wants Revenge, released in 2005 by Perfect Kiss, a subsidiary of Geffen Records. Music Video
The music video stars Shirley Manson, lead singer of the band Garbage. Track Listing
1. "These Things [Radio Edit]" - 3:17
2. show absolutely no respect for the black community."
Members of the black media concede that sometimes coverage isn't as fair as it could be.
"Media outlets feel less responsibility to minorities in general. The St. Louis media, in particular, can be disrespectful dis·re·spect·ful
Having or exhibiting a lack of respect; rude and discourteous.
disre·spect at times; even rude and abrasive abrasive, material used to grind, smooth, cut, or polish another substance. Natural abrasives include sand, pumice, corundum, and ground quartz. Carborundum (silicon carbide) and alumina (aluminum oxide) are important synthetically produced abrasives. . It doesn't happen all of the time, but there are instances when it does and it is uncalled for," says Reid.
Another factor used in determining the coverage a murder receives is the other news events that occurred that day.
"We can never look at one murder without looking at other news happenings of the day. These events can never be discounted. We must look at the structure of the entire newscast. This plays a major factor in determining what gets covered and how it's covered," says Perron.
Other factors used to determine the coverage given to a murder are the time of day/year the murder occurs and the resources available to the newsroom.
"The time of day a murder happens or is discovered is an important consideration. There are certain times of the day when we look at everything that is going on and assign reporters to stories," says Perron. "We are more likely to cover a murder if it falls around these times and we have a large pool of reporters to choose from. But if it isn't, we have to look at the resources we have available; what reporters can cover the story and what equipment that we have."
The hierarchy of murder is a real problem for the media and the public. While many issues are taken into account when determining the coverage provided to a murder, a wide gap exists between the two sides as to what is the best way to do it.
"This is a very difficult, complex problem. It is a double-sided sword in some sense. If the media devotes too much time to the white crimes in the suburbs, then the black community says they are being slighted," said Art Silverblatt, professor of media literacy Media literacy is the process of accessing, analyzing, evaluating and creating messages in a wide variety of media modes, genres and forms. It uses an inquiry-based instructional model that encourages people to ask questions about what they watch, see and read. at Webster University Webster today operates as an independent, comprehensive, non-denominational university with campus locations around the world. It offers undergraduate and graduate programs in a wide array of disciplines, including the liberal arts, fine and performing arts, teacher education, business . "However, if the media covers black crimes then the black community feels as if the media is once again over-emphasizing black crimes, Every group involved seems to think they are right. It is very difficult to determine who is right or wrong in this situation."
Shonna Troph is a St. Louis free-lance writer.