Why Do Newspaper and TV Reporters Usually Decide Not to Describe Gunmen and Victims?

I know that the PC, AP style line is ‘don’t report race in crime unless it is absolutely necessary.’

Here is a recent random example, the first story I looked at, a shooting at Bay Area BART station late Monday afternoon left four people with bullet wounds — including the driver of a passing AC Transit bus that was pierced by bullets and a suspected gunman who may have accidentally shot himself, authorities said.

The shooting just before 6 p.m. led to chaos as authorities shut down the busy station during the evening commute, passengers tended to the wounded, and police searched for the gunmen.

Police took a juvenile suspect into custody and said it was unclear whether he was the only shooter involved.

Ralph Crane, a station agent on duty at the time, said he heard gunshots and peered out of the break room to see a teenage boy running from the bus zone. As the young man ran toward the station, a bullet struck the youth in the lower left leg, Crane said.

The young man yelled out, “I’m hit,” after he was shot just a few feet from an opening to the station that was fenced at the time, Crane said. Another person with a gunshot wound to the left thigh had made his way to the upstairs BART platform, Crane said.

Also shot was the driver of a 92 AC Transit bus, which runs between the BART station and Cal State Hayward, said AC Transit spokesman Clarence Johnson.

“We don’t belive it’s life-threatening,” Johnson said. “We certainly hope not.”

BART shut down the station after the shooting for several hours, allowing trains to pass through but not stop, and Hayward police assisted in setting up a perimeter to search for the gunmen.

This PC style reporting is what leads to fear and distrust. What about a description of the one gunman they caught? Why was he wounded? There must be another shooter on the loose. What race was the wounded shooter? How about the victims? Was this a hate crime, gang related or terrorism?

Will the lack of details keep BART commuters satisfied? Why don’t I believe that?

Here is a story of a horrible hate crime in the LA Times’ backyard, yet they decided not to cover it.

The story broke on November 3, when a local Web site editor William Pearl scooped the LA Times on LBReport.com, quoting Long Beach police spokeswoman Jacqueline Bezart as saying a crowd of black attackers hurled racial taunts (“White bitches!” “We hate whites!”) at the young women, and the police were pursuing it as a hate crime.

So, it takes a citizen journalist to get a quote.

At the Press-Telegram in Long Beach, reporter Tracy Manzer quickly landed an exclusive interview with the victims, introducing awkward issues of race and culture rarely seen in California media. Said one victim, identified as Laura: “They asked us, ‘Are you down with it?’ We had no idea what that meant so we didn’t say anything and just walked by them up to the haunted house. They were grabbing their crotches — we didn’t know if it was a gang thing or what.”

As the Press-Telegram reported on November 3, three white women aged 19 to 21 emerged from a “maze” walk in a house on Halloween and were confronted by up to 40 black teenagers who pelted them with pumpkins and lemons. The paper said, “The taunts and jeers grew more aggressive, the victims recalled, as did the size of the crowd. Now females joined in, and everyone began saying, ‘We hate white people, f— whites!’ ”

The Press-Telegram had the honesty to followup the blogger with the details.
But the “prestigious LA Times” wouldn’t dare.

Imagine if 40 white young women beat three black girls, yelling we hate n***ers!

That would be front page news for days on the LA Times and hourly on CNN. That’s my guess.

3 thoughts on “Why Do Newspaper and TV Reporters Usually Decide Not to Describe Gunmen and Victims?

  1. NTL has some good detail on the subject.

    Without making all information public, the average citizen that gets their news from the paper, radio, or tv, will be panic stricken, and suspect everybody. In the event of a serial killer/ings, the police will be bombarded with paniced calls, and won’t be able to focus on those citizen reports that may actually help.
    A classic example of useful information, that is often dismissed as police profiling, is found in the U.S. Department of Justice · Bureau of Justice Statistics
    If an officer has to pull over a vehicle for a traffic violation, it is good for him/her to know, that young black males from the ages of 16-24yoa, are responsible for more homicides than any other demographic group, and yet represent only about 1-2% of the total population. That isn’t being racist, or targeting those young men in the car, it is essential info for the officer as he approaches the vehicle. The same is true for all males in that age group, that they commit a disproportionate number of homicides for their percentage of the population, and once again, the officer needs to know this from information that is disseminated, and not just intuitively. Conversely, females from any demographic, in the 55-65 yoa group, are so unlikely to commit violent crime, the officer can and should, take a different approach when making a stop.

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