In Harm's Way

Friday, January 18, 2013


The massacre in Newtown has sparked a national debate about gun control. But usually, when a child falls victim to gun violence, it’s not in a comfortable suburb, and its coverage is confined to the metro page. At New York Public Radio, our producing station, reporter Kathleen Horan’s current assignment is to profile every child killed by a gun in New York City. Her series is called In Harm’s Way. Kathleen talks to Brooke about her project. 


Kronos Quartet - Tiliboyo ('Sunset')


Kathleen Horan

Hosted by:

Brooke Gladstone

Comments [1]

magister ludi

One thing that is apparent is that the media tend to discuss black-on-black violence in aggregate, and white-on-white violence in anecdote. This is very clear. The reasons may be more complex. I would suggest that for one thing, the media-consuming public is simply fatigued by talk of ghetto violence; the 506 homicides that occurred in Chicago last year, in aggregate is a lot, but that averages to over one a day (or night). Just as soon as we hear about on on the (local) news, there's another. Even more spectacular stories, like the spate of shootings at funerals (the same tactic, I might add, employed by Al Queda, Libyan and Syrian forces - clever in a perverse way, insofar as if you kill an enemy, his friends are likely to be at his funeral, and also likely to be your enemies). Yes, the NYT had at least one brief article about the problem in Chicago, but it doesn't receive the same kind of wall-to-wall attention of a suburban school, mall or theatre shooting.

It's worth noting that the majority of Americans are white, and do not live in ghettoes. Moreover, an even greater majority of TV news viewers are white (and skew a bit older than the median age). And finally, perhaps most insidious, poor people of any race are among the least desirable demographics for advertisers; where commercial news is a business model, there is a clear incentive to give the wealthy, white, suburban demographic the stories it wants to see (whether it knows what it wants, or not; the proof is in the ratings). It's easy to complain, but if people keep watching, their complaints ring insincere. People like roller-coasters because it's thrilling to feel scared.

One might recall the Second Presidential Debate of 2012 (though it may seem like ancient history). Recently after the Aurora shooting, the candidates were asked what they would do about assault weapons. Obama responded, in part:

"But I also share your belief that weapons that were designed for soldiers in war theaters don't belong on our streets. And so what I'm trying to do is to get a broader conversation about how do we reduce the violence generally. Part of it is seeing if we can get an assault weapons ban reintroduced, but part of it is also looking at other sources of the violence, because frankly, in my hometown of Chicago, there's an awful lot of violence, and they're not using AK-47s, they're using cheap handguns."

The great bulk of homicides are committed with "cheap handguns" (all the easier to conceal) but no assault weapons bill would conceivably ban them; it isn't even an idea on the table. I have ideas on that, but this piece was on the disproportionate coverage of black homicides, and I've made my point there.

Jan. 22 2013 05:23 PM

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