Attack Journalism: New York Post Goes after New York Times in Front Page Stories, Accusing Its Competitor of Ignoring Pleas of Victims in Its Series on Child-Age Killers; Times Stays above the Fray

By Garneau, George | Editor & Publisher, June 11, 1994 | Go to article overview

Attack Journalism: New York Post Goes after New York Times in Front Page Stories, Accusing Its Competitor of Ignoring Pleas of Victims in Its Series on Child-Age Killers; Times Stays above the Fray


Garneau, George, Editor & Publisher


TAKING ISSUE WITH a competing paper's reportage is nothing new, especially in New York City.

So it struck no unusual chord when several columnists took New York Daily News columnist Mike McAlary to task recently when he discredited a woman's allegation of being raped.

But even by the "anything-goes" standards in the nation's most competitive newespaper town, the New York Post's two-day fusillade against the New York Times stood out, even after factoring in the Post's tradition of stretching journalistic norms.

The scrappy tabloid's blasts against the staid Times recalled days of yore, when Pulitzer battled Hearst, journalism was a trade instead of a profession and objectivity took a back seat to selling newspapers.

For two days running, the Post lashed out at the Times' reporting, naming the Times in page-one headlines, reproducing excerpts of its stories and devoting over five full pages to criticizing the newspaper whose motto holds, "All the News That's Fit to Print."

What foul deed did the Times commit to incur the wrath of Rupert Murdoch's Post?

The Times probed a question more and more Americans have to be asking themselves these days as the youthful carnage mounts: What turns kids into killers?

The Times on May 15 began a series, "When Trouble Starts Young," with profiles of some of the kids whose murderous ways have shocked citizens.

The first installment recounted how 15-year-old Shaul Linyear held up, and ended up killing, a man delivering candy to get money for new sneakers because kids laughed at his old ones.

The story by Celia Dugger chronicled how Linyear saved money from stealing gold chains and bought a gun, then used it to steal money to buy clothes and jewelry for his girlfriend.

The Post reacted May 18 with a full front page devoted to the Times' coverage.

"Murder victim's daughters blast the New York Times" said the kicker above a 160-point headline screaming "WHAT ABOUT US!" beside a photo of Alexandra Nunez holding a photo of her dad, Diogene Nunez, who died from Linyear's bullets.

Pages two and three showed a picture of the dead man, more pictures of Nunez, crying and with her siblings, and a graphic depicting Times excerpts, all below a headline saying the Times' coverage of the killer "has left the real victims feeling bitter and confused."

Post columnist Andrea Peyser wrote that the Times' Sunday story with a page-one picture of the smiling killer "mocked" the Nunez family.

"Who should merit such glory but Shaul Linyear, the no-account menace who snuffed out the life of a loving husband and father of four -- leaving a family devastated, penniless and alone," Peyser wrote.

"Nothing, not even the pain of losing her dad -- could compare with the agony that shot through 15-year-old Damaris Nunez's heart when she picked up the paper. Linyear, at least, was a homicidal maniac, but the sensitive folks at the Times never even bothered to ask her what she thought."

Nunez family members accused the Times of "defending" the killer. "I would like to grab that person who wrote that article," Damaris Nunez said. "Drawing sympathy -- and giving glory -- to killers does nothing constructive," Peyser wrote. "It's an insult to the Nunezes, and to the memory of their slain father. And to the rest of us."

Peyser stated, "There is only one thing that you need to 'understand' about the Shaul Linyears of this world: They need to be stopped. Preferably before they kill for the first time."

The columnist did not disclose how to prevent young people from killing.

The next day, the Post continued with a page-one refer box and two full pages, four and five, devoted to the same theme. A story by two political reporters quoted mostly Republican and conservative politicians accusing the Times of stirring up sympathy for child killers while ignoring their victims. …

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