(This photograph is from a Facebook post of a former student of an incident from this year)
There are so many things to write about, but once again media malfeasance must take priority. In the week following my conversation with a Republican/Masslive reporter and editor I was more focused than usual on the topic and, sadly, that provided enough grist for my mill to continue grinding.
I was trying to describe in my conversation exactly the elements which were exploitative in Republican and MassLive reporting. I named quite a few, but a perfect example shot out at me to begin the week: in a story about a double shooting the reporter takes a quote which is in error and prints it without comment despite the fact it is his media outlet’s own reporting which contradicts the statement. A woman is quoted as saying “This (shooting)really hits home, (my son) was murdered five years ago. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
It is sad that this woman’s son lost his life, but two minutes of research on MassLive itself shows that his family acknowledges that his drug use led him into a dangerous lifestyle and that he was killed by being shot in the head three times while in a car with his assailants in what everyone admits was a drug deal gone bad. I understand that a mother would want to put the best possible spin on the death of a troubled child but certainly being murdered “just” for being in the “wrong place at the wrong time” is not how any reader would interpret the publicly available facts in that case.
I haven’t been to journalism school, but to me a reporter has a right to publish any quotes he has obtained if they relate to the story, certainly, but if upon investigation the statement is obviously misleading then the reporter should make note of it to the reader. Or not print it at all. Or at least, in this case, link to the five year old story to give the reader a chance to judge the accuracy of the statement for himself.
Instead the statement is left in and the reader is left with the impression that this one man’s murder was a case of “another innocent” being gunned down in the streets.
Later in the week the same news outlet published a map of recent murders. It’s labeled “2015”, but actually includes many years of data. It is an interesting exercise which would be much more useful if, instead of murders (which have no actual correspondence to place except coincidentally) it was of traffic fatalities, which are in fact heavily place related.
This assertion is supported by a list published this same week also on MassLive. This list of Springfield’s 17 murder victims for 2015 has 13 men and 4 women.
All four women were murdered by men with whom they had been in a relationship. That is tragic, but it is a function of the relationship, not where they lived.
One victim, a delivery driver for an Asian restaurant was robbed. Tragically, of course there is a place relationship to this one murder. While food delivery is a very dangerous job, doing so in a city is probably more dangerous relative to the specific danger of robbery. Food delivery is the 5th most dangerous job in America. Then again, for every pizza guy murdered delivering pizza, 3 more die in traffic accidents.
All but one of the remaining names are of Black or Hispanic men between the ages of 18-29 with the outlier being a 39 year old Hispanic male. What does this mean? If place were the causal factor this reporting wants to imply that it is we would see a cross section of people which more or less corresponded to the demographic of people living, working, and visiting these neighborhoods. We do not see that. The demographics are so tightly wound around a core of minority males involved in gang and drug activity that it becomes clear that that is the operative factor.
That is not to say that this violence isn’t a problem. That is not to say that this violence cannot have and does not have knock on effects or occasionally involve innocent bystanders. It is a problem, sometimes (though from the very data we have here very INFREQUENTLY) there are people who lose their lives despite not being involved in gangs, drugs, or unhealthy relationships.
The simple fact is, however, for every story of a mother whisking away a frightened, but unhurt(!!!!!!!) child from a violent incident at a Springfield restaurant I’ll show you a dozen DEAD children in stroad car crashes.
This misinformation and misallocation of concern matters because it impacts on the vitality of our cities. Just this week I received a comment from a parent about bringing my students on a field trip to a Puerto Rican restaurant in the city. She made a reference to acquiring “bullet proof vests” and implied that she would not sign a permission slip for her son to participate. This from a woman whose son attends a school where I have lost count of the number of dead and injured students, parents, and siblings from car related incidents in the last few years. Off the top of my head in the last year, one dead student, one dead former student, and one dead parent of a student in my class(had she not been I’d not have known), another in criminal proceedings on manslaughter charges, and another released from prison after serving her sentence for the same, and two more former students recovering from crashes which they only just barely survived. On just one morning this month in my corridor one teacher was sent home suffering from the consequences of a concussion from a car accident, and a student missed my class after being witness to a crash on the way to school.
This is the danger which is more widespread, more place connected, and about which fewer people are actually aware: automobile mayhem and death. People immediately see those tragedies as behavior related; drinking and driving, speeding, or driving while distracted. While those factors do play a role what would be easier to see from the data IF IT WERE EVER LAID OUT is that the average person is much more likely to die or be injured because of an auto crash than a shooting wherever they may live. If the data were laid out what you would see is an age range of victims not from 18-29 of one gender, but both sexes, young and old, white and minority, and the locations of their deaths, whether they died as pedestrians, drivers, or passengers, would point to high speed roadways.
What all of the murder data shows is that it is dangerous to be a woman who ends a relationship with a male. Wherever you live. Get involved with gangs and/or the purchase and sale of illegal narcotics, and you have chosen a dangerous path no matter where you hang your hat.
But the best way to limit or reduce your exposure to truly random danger is to spend as little time in places where cars go fast as you possibly can.