The number of murders in the nation’s capital is up nearly 45 percent over the same time last year, and the city’s leaders are getting increasingly miffed with the way local media covers the topic.
Washington D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier chided the media during a Thursday radio interview for a perceived imbalance of coverage between the murders of white people and black people in the city. According to Lanier, the lack of coverage given to murders of black people in the city gives the impression that these murders aren’t as important as when a white person gets murdered.
“I have complained repeatedly, like the members of the community have complained, that not all homicides get equal coverage by the press,” Lanier said. “And when they don’t get equal coverage by the press it gives the impression that people don’t care as much.”
What Lanier failed to acknowledge is that the murders of white people garnering attention by the media have been particularly egregious by any objective measure.
One of those murders involved a former congressional intern who was shot to death outside a Metro station when he accidentally got caught in the crossfire of a drive-by shootout. Kevin Sutherland’s murder is another that got heavy play in the press. Sutherland was brutally stabbed nearly 40 times on a crowded train after a black teenager tried to steal his cellphone.
Arguably the most heavily covered murder this year, though, was that of a wealthy Washington, D.C., family that was tied up and tortured in their own home, before their kidnapper burned the house. In that particular case, Darron Wint allegedly held a family and their nanny captive for nearly ten hours before killing them all and absconding with $40,000 cash paid as a ransom.
Lanier pointed to the murder of a black reporter in D.C. as an example of how the media skips over some murders it collectively sees as less important.
“We tried very, very hard to get Charnice Milton lots and lots of coverage, and that homicide did not get as much coverage as some of the others,” Lanier said in the interview. Charnice Milton was a local reporter who covered mostly neighborhood issues. She was heading home from an assignment on the night of May 27 when she stopped at a bus stop to change buses.
While waiting, a gunman on an illegal dirt bike shot and killed Milton after another man, the intended target of the attack, grabbed her and used her as a human shield.
Kevin Donahue, the deputy city administrator, agreed with Lanier and tweeted out Thursday that the city’s press corps needs to do a better job covering all murders.
— Public Safety in DC (@SafeDC) August 28, 2015
Wednesday evening, Donahue took another shot at local media coverage with a link to a Washington Post story about two murder cases closed by the city’s police department that day.
That same day, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office tweeted out this info-graphic, calling out a local reporter by name for allegedly referring to Chief Lanier as a princess during a television interview.
— DC Mayor’s Office (@TeamMuriel) August 27, 2015
John Falcicchio, Bowser’s chief of staff, got in on the action, too.
The problem, though, according to Jaffe, as he later pointed out that his comment was taken out of context.
Ya’ll missing my point. We must stop treating chief “like a princess.” Never called her one. Ramsey’s no prince. https://t.co/QITDmaadSU
— Harry Jaffe (@harryjaffe) September 2, 2015
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