There are no two ways about it, the media discriminates. The charge has been made before. If a blond, blue-eyed young Caucasian girl turns up missing, television news broadcasts nationwide carry the story ad infinitum. The same is not true if the victim is black. If someone calls the media on this fact, their spokespersons look aghast while uttering “Moi?!” I might add another category to the list, the poor and homeless. Their plight is largely ignored except at holiday time. The approaching Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays fill my mailbox with appeals for money at “this special time of year.” The fact that they are largely ignored in other ways was brought home recently by a murder that occurred not 3 miles from our door. There was an altercation at a local meal kitchen which resulted in a fatal stabbing. Other than a brief mention shortly after the event, there was no further coverage. To my knowledge, it was never mentioned in the Washington Post and, of the two weekly papers delivered to our door on Thursdays, only one gave any space to the incident. Given the repeated coverage of similar stories of violence, its absence was puzzling.
My wife, Judi, carefully explained to me that the reason possibly was because of our location, half way between Baltimore and Washington. This sometimes means that events happening here go unnoticed. Yet, when some girls were sexually harassed at a local high school, television vans from the major networks magically appeared outside the school. And other events of the same sort in the past have garnered similar coverage. But those victims had a residence. No, it is not our location. I think the reason is because the victim was homeless. A non-person, his violent end didn’t merit coverage.
These are the people we see, but we don’t see. The beggars who sit outside the Metro stops hoping for a few coins. The men and women who walk the streets; we see their dirty hair and their disheveled clothing and we look away. Rarely looked upon with compassion, they are vilified. Depending on the temperament of the person, we often hear that if the homeless would get a job or quit drinking, they could lift themselves out of their poverty. Empty words intended to absolve from blame.
The point of this screed is that I don’t want endless coverage of such events. I am merely asking that the media be more egalitarian in their treatment of such events. Locality, rather than race or social status, would make a better filter. Living in Maryland, I do not need to know about violent personal crime in California, but I should know what is going on in my own community. That I hear about violent crime in California, especially if there is a hint of celebrity, speaks more to the sensationalist aspect of the news, not its ability to convey useable information.