The Sun's murder coverage is uneven

April 01, 2011

When Stephen Pitcairn, a young Hopkins researcher, was stabbed to death, his murder dominated Sun coverage for weeks. We are still reading about the loss of Yeardley Love, a student killed at UVA. One can perhaps justify the extensive coverage of the deaths of these young people, a coverage that eclipsed the carnage that claims so many young lives in this city, by the fact that Mr. Pitcairn and Ms. Love were both students.

Page four of The Sun on March 30 featured a scant two inches of coverage of a young woman stabbed to death in Remington, under the same headline as two unrelated shootings. At 11:40 a.m. on The Sun's website, Justin Fenton identified the young woman as Jhoma Blackwell, a Coppin State University student, in a five-sentence article. No mention was made on The Sun's homepage. I had to Google "Coppin homicide" to find the piece.

In a city plagued by violence and an ever-thinner daily paper, I recognize that not every homicide makes the front page. But any possible morally defensible explanation (the student argument) for the disproportionate coverage of the deaths of Mr. Pitcairn and Ms. Love, both Caucasians, is erased when the homicide of an African-American Coppin student is sent to the back of The Sun.

Baltimore is a violent city. Lives — young, old, Black, White, Latino, Asian — are taken almost every day. While the problems underlying these deaths seem intractable, it also seems that any possible solution to these problems would require us to face the fact that these homicides tend to be prioritized — not just by The Sun — but by police, prosecutors, and many citizens. Only when we agree to grieve for every life lost to this city's homicide epidemic might we start to find our way out of the violence that has claimed the lives of so many.

Josh Julius, Baltimore

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