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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Are all lives equal in the media?

The verdict in the Neil Entwistle murder case was on everyone's lips yesterday and not surprisingly at the top of yesterday's television newscasts and today's papers.

The case after all, had everything that sells news -- a double murder, including a tiny child, allegations of kinky sex and a man who claimed that after he discovered the bodies, did nothing except get on a plane and leave the country.

But the high-level coverage brought to mind a debate over on Universal Hub last week -- about the lack of similar attention to a verdict in the case of a man accused of slaughtering four people in the basement of a Dorchester home. Or a number of other city murders where they media did not seem to even care.

Is there a double standard? No doubt. Is is raced-based or otherwise urban-biased? I don't think so.

It is quite true that the news executives at Boston media outlets are overwhelmingly white. And that the history of the discrepancy in how crime is covered in Boston can be summed up in two words: Charles Stuart.

There's certainly a fair comparison to the fact that both murders involved "typical" white suburban families, the kind that make many people say "say but for the grace of God go I."

But Stuart went one step farther and made race a plotline to his elaborately crafted scheme -- and his self-inflicted wound was definitely a sale pitch for his bogus story.

It's true that a quadruple homicide involving a home invasion, like the Dorchester murder, has the same elements that strike fear into every day folks. And its also true that it took place in a city neighborhood and not a leafy suburb.

But I do recall considerable coverage of the case at the time -- and some considerable relief expressed when the murderer was caught.

Yes, nothing on par coverage of the Entwistle case. And I would be quick to agree the coverage in this case was, pardon the expression, overkill. Despite the family's protestation, this verdict was obvious and I'm only surprised that the jury took a little more than a day to convict.

Would the case have drawn similar attention if the victims not been white suburbanites? Doubtful. But we have made gains in the fact that no one fell for Entwistle's defense they way everyone fell over Stuart's.

And today we do have familiar names (and heroes) in the victims of inner city crime. Is the media wrong to raise the story of Kai Lee Harriott and the incredible inspiration she provides?

Here's an African-American city crime victim who will be remembered and admired long after the name Neil Entwistle descends into the muck.

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