Should the news media cover each and every murder that happens in our city? Can five or six murders that might happen in one weekend be reduced to a kind of box-score?
Our guests this week answer that question a bit differently.
“I agree that the box-score approach to covering violence is inadequate,” the Reader’s Mick Dumke claims. “But I don’t necessarily think that it, in itself, should be jettisoned. You could argue that it’s important to cover each murder.”
WBEZ’s Natalie Moore argues against it.
“I think there has to be an intense discussion about why we want to cover this,” Moore asserts. “I’m not sure every murder should be covered.”
It becomes an issue of resource-allocation for ever-shrinking news shops, she says. “There are (newsrooms) that aren’t covering state government, city council, neighborhood issues. So even if it’s profiles of people who got shot, I don’t know how useful that is. So for me, its – what are we trying to tell residents in this city? And with us being segregated, what happens is that it becomes, well, that shooting is there. I don’t wanna go there. And there’s a fear I’m seeing within black communities. We’re starting to internalize what we are being told…this is all people are thinking about because this is all they are being fed. And now we’re fearing our community. We’re fearing young people. And that’s happening not just to white people. I think it’s happening to black people.”
Dumke adds that for him it’s a matter of perspective. “The media should be present in these places so they understand the community before and after violence occurs,” he says. (Violence) happens, and we should cover it when it does, but part of the problem is that that’s the only thing that gets covered about those neighborhoods.”
“I think it’s a journalist’s job to try to provide understanding and context,” says Moore. “We lack an understanding in this city, which is why I think this Jackie Robinson West story has resonated with so many people. So many people have been emotional, just seeing these little black boys being celebrated and not maligned makes people want to cry.”
The ball players, she says, “are shouldering race relations.” She laments the pressure placed on all these young athletes because their series was going on during Ferguson.
“They’re from Washington Heights,” she explains. “They’re from Chatham, from Morgan Park. These are not poor inner-city youth. They have families who – you don’t just win baseball games. There’s discipline. You have to have good grades, sacrifice.”
There as news yesterday that 11th District Commander Glenn Evans was relieved of command after allegedly putting his gun barrel into an arrestee’s mouth. (Originally reported by WBEZ’s Chip Mitchell.) Evans was highly regarded in police circles, and had McCarthy’s full support until the indictment was announced yesterday.
“In most of these situations it’s a law-enforcement officer’s word against a criminal suspect’s word about what happened,” Dumke explained. “So you ask if this is an anomaly, well, statistically it is an anomaly, for any police officer. And to be fair there are a lot of bogus complaints that are routinely filed against police officers…but most of them are not sustained. An investigation occurs and they don’t find enough evidence to take any action. So that fact that you have a high-ranking police officer…temporarily relieved of command is striking.”
We asked Natalie Moore if the loss of one of Chicago’s highest-ranking African-American Commanders could leave the command staff with too few blacks.
“This came up in Ferguson,” she said. “The lack of black police officers, and I get that you should have people who live in the community, who understand the community, but just because you’re a black police officer doesn’t mean that you’re going to be a good police officer. Sometimes I think there’s a police culture that supersedes race. And being one commander down, do I think that’s going to have an impact right now, no. I think if that commander were staying that would be a bigger political liability…”