— From today’s RedEye, responding to the image below.
Letter to Romenesko
From A TRIBUNE CO. NEWSPAPER EMPLOYEE: Have you seen this? A photo of a story in the Chicago Tribune’s RedEye sparked righteous indignation among thousands on Facebook who believe the devotion of 300-some words to a single shooting in a “white” part of Chicago while four other shootings in “black” neighborhoods were summarized in 20-some words is proof of structural racism in the mainstream media.
The notion that journalists in a major metro’s newsroom would prioritize coverage based on race or socio economic status is laughable to anyone who has worked in such a place. We all know that you get the story that you can get when deadline is looming. And a look at the Tribune version of the story reveals that the north side shooting that got the bulk of the space in this story simply had the meatiest narrative. There were details (names, ages) of the victims in the other four shootings, but the narratives lacked the punch to lead the story, in my opinion.
The RedEye is targeted at commuters on the El, many of whom ride downtown from the north side, so it would make sense to put the focus of a crime story on that neighborhood, which I understand is more ethnically diverse and gentrifying than “white.” I would also note that the races of the subjects of the story are not identified.
In my experience, there are reasons that crime in poor neighborhoods sometimes gets short shrift that are related to race, but racism among journalists is not one of them./CONTINUES
A middle class person simply has more of a “paper trail” and is more likely to get more space in the paper for a host of reasons: they’ve been mentioned in the news before; they have things like Facebook pages; their relatives are more likely to have land line phones and thus be listed in the phone book; they may have professional licenses or voter registration records; and they likely have a credit record, so they show up in databases like Nexis.
A poor person is likely to have none of that. On top of that, there are often language barriers and plain old distrust that keep people in poor neighborhoods from speaking to reporters.
In this case, don’t think it was even that complex, but I’d love see what you can flush out.
The fact that several of my contemporaries reposted this photo with comments like, “Wow.. We need to look at this kind of racism,” makes me feel as a journalist that I am being unfairly tarred and that I need to stand up for my profession and colleagues.