Media Create 'Hierarchy of Murder.'

By Troph, Shonna | St. Louis Journalism Review, March 1999 | Go to article overview

Media Create 'Hierarchy of Murder.'


Troph, Shonna, St. Louis Journalism Review


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," 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 murders involving blacks and underemphasize 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, 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 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. 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, 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. "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, 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 rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Media Create 'Hierarchy of Murder.'
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.