Media Missed Mark on Murder Coverage

Article excerpt

The Post-Dispatch has rather enthusiastically kept track of the record number of homicides in the city of St. Louis. As we move forward in 1994 with renewed hopes of optimism, we are dramatically reminded that homicides will continue, regardless of the year.

A Jan. 4 headline read: "City Records First Homicide Of 1994." The media in general were the brunt of much criticism last year because of their coverage of crime and in particular homicides. If this story is an indication of how future homicides will be covered, then the Post-Dispatch should add another page for reader's comments because they surely will increase.

By the fourth sentence, a young man (24) had been transformed into a statistic, victim No. 1. How can the community be sensitive to the problem of crime when its victims no longer are fellow citizens yet statistics only to be forgotten when the next homicide occurs?

The Post-Dispatch neglects its duty when it fails to connect the event to the community. To understand crime thoroughly, the reader should know much more information about the victim.

Who was Stephen Williams? (The article only suggests he was a robber and a suspect in another shooting.) Did he have any family? Did he leave behind a wife or child? Did he have any education? Was he employed? Does he have any prior convictions? Did he attend church?

The article stated that Williams died in surgery at St. Louis University Hospital. Surely he was not treated for free. Who will pay his medical bill? Is this where society gets involved?

The homicides are sure to continue. Yet the Post-Dispatch has an opportunity to change the way it reports them. By choosing to turn homicides into a statistical tabulating game rather than a full news story, the Post-Dispatch does a disservice to the victim, the community and its readers. Keith F. Fuller Assistant City Counselor St. Louis

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Responding to the Jan. 2 feature article related to the record number of murders in St. Louis in 1993 and other urban centers the year before, may I offer some observations?

In a nation of 250 million people, that 23,760 were victims of homicide, while regrettable, should not of itself be totally alarming. In fact, more than twice that number are killed each year as the result of motor vehicles and accidental falls. …