We owe the Bias family an apology A view from the newsroom

Michelle Singletary

December 11, 1990|By Michelle Singletary

IF THIS NEWSPAPER had an ombudsman, or reader representative, he or she would have had several questions about The Evening Sun's editorial (Dec. 6) on the shooting death of James "Jay" Stanley Bias.

Was it the fact that both Bias and James Samuel Tyler, the man charged with his death, were black that prompted you to link them to a subculture of violence and drugs, even though nothing revealed thus far even hints that drugs were involved?

Jay Bias was black and had a brother, Len, who died from a drug overdose. Did these facts lead you to the conclusion that the younger Bias had an "obsession with material wealth that led the victim to the jewelry store where he met his assailant . . ."?

The Bias family has enough pain. It can only be compounded when newspapers in effect blame Jay Bias for being in a jewelry store. It's outrageous to suggest that Bias, because he was buying a ring, is part of a culture awash in drugs and violence. It's clearly a case of blaming the victim.

Are all of the millions of Christmas shoppers in malls all over the country obsessed with material wealth -- or is it just black shoppers?

Was it because the 24-year-old suspect was black and driving a Mercedes that led you to the conclusion that he "could never afford such a car from legitimate earnings alone"? (As it turns out, the car is registered to the suspect's 57-year-old father.)

Are all the thousands of people who own four-wheel-drive vehicles or luxury cars small-time hustlers or part of the "murky subculture of drugs and violence" -- or just the black ones?

The toughest job in this business is to gather facts as accurately as possible and present them fairly. While editorials by their very nature are opinions, the media have a responsibility to base their opinions on facts and should be extremely careful to avoid stereotypes of any kind -- racist or otherwise.

The Evening Sun failed its readers in this case and owes the Bias family an apology.

Michelle Singletary is a member of The Evening Sun news staff.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.