December 07, 2008

Reporting dehumanizes victims of homicide

During the recent spike in homicides in Baltimore, I have been dismayed at the continued dehumanizing manner in which The Baltimore Sun has reported on the victims.

In consecutive articles last week in which homicide victims were identified in The Baltimore Sun, the descriptive information for each victim included his name, age, address and a statement regarding his prior convictions or criminal record ("Baltimore police identify four killed in shootings," Dec. 3, and "Violent surge continues in Baltimore as teen becomes 24th killing in 18 days," Dec. 4).

While it may be true that many victims of violence in Baltimore have been caught up in the street life, the implication of this kind of reporting seems to be that if a victim had a criminal record, his murder is somehow excusable or to be expected.

As a pastor in Park Heights who has performed the funerals of homicide victims and sought to comfort mourning loved ones, I am appalled at this style of police record reporting.

Is the sum total of each young life gunned down in Baltimore based primarily upon his criminal record or prior convictions?

Does The Baltimore Sun not have a desire and a responsibility to print more about the city's murder victims than a rap sheet obtained through the Police Department or electronic court records?

I sincerely hope that the paper will re-examine this policy and the prejudice that it perpetuates instead of continuing to victimize the victims of homicide in Baltimore.

The Rev. Gregg Knepp, Baltimore

The writer is the pastor of St. John's Lutheran Church of Pimlico.

Why punish workers for state budget woes?

Unfortunately, Gov. Martin O'Malley has decided to place the burden of the state's budget difficulties squarely on the backs of state employees ("Taking a hit," Dec. 4). This is a major mistake for several reasons.

As a state employee, I know that the state's budget woes were not created by me or my fellow workers. So why should so few out of the millions of Maryland taxpayers be asked to bear such a large portion of the state's shortfall?

Is it not a state shortfall? Shouldn't it be paid for by all of the citizens of the state?

I am going to lose a full week of pay. What will others in Maryland give up?

In some years, the state has had a surplus. I don't remember getting a bonus in those years.

Taking money from state employees raises another serious concern: Where does it end?

We are in a recession. The situation could get worse.

Will the governor come back to ask state employees for more sacrifices?

Dudley N. Thompson, Waynesboro, Pa.

Preserve income instead of open space

I find it ironic that Page 1A of Thursday's Baltimore Sun reported that Gov. Martin O'Malley will furlough 67,000 workers to save $34.4 million ("Taking a hit," Dec. 4) while an article on Page 3A reported that he will spend $71 million to buy five tracts of forest, farm and waterfront land ("State plans to preserve 9,200 acres," Dec. 4).

Something is wrong with this picture.

I would have thought that people would come first and that the governor could purchase land when the economy improves.

Jack Freeland, Joppa

How can the governor of this state look at state employees and tell them that as a result of an economic crisis, they will have to face financial losses caused by state furloughs, and at the same time justify paying $71 million to preserve 9,200 acres of land?

The governor needs to understand that state employees need their jobs and need to be able to pay for their food, utilities and rent more than the state needs to pay $71 million for land that's going to be used only as a land preserve.

Barry Apple, Woodlawn

Smokers create haze at other sites, too

Eliminating smoking at all entrances to hospitals and nursing homes is a great idea ("Smoke-free zones boost public health," letters, Dec. 4).

However, just think about all the smokers standing outside the entrances of bars and restaurants and shopping malls.

Nonsmokers have to walk through the haze of smoke they create, too.

Dotti Fielder, Catonsville

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