Last year, Philadelphia abortionist Dr. Kermit Gosnell stood trial in Philadelphia for the deaths of one woman and seven babies who had their throats slit, but national reporters didn’t want to cover it. It’s a “local crime story,” they said. Washington Post media blogger Erik Wemple said that when he asked national reporters about avoiding the Gosnell story, the typical response was “Get out of my face with this agenda-driven stuff, and come back when you have a real story.”
Ferguson, Missouri, is merely the latest proof that a “local crime story” can be elevated to national news — when it’s the liberal media’s favorite kind of “agenda-driven stuff.” A local story about a white cop fatally shooting an unarmed young black man in one St. Louis suburb has dominated the national news, to the point that the networks interrupted primetime TV for an announcement on whether the policeman would be indicted.
These are the same networks that refused to air President Obama’s speech the week before on his immigration end-around. The entire nation couldn’t wait two hours for the local news, or turn to cable news? It seems like an attempt to create an episode for the history books — making Ferguson a destination in black history like Selma, or Sanford, Florida, where Trayvon Martin was shot.
Why is this story so much more portentous in meaning than others? Obviously, it fits a narrative that America — and its justice “system” — is deeply racist. As with George Zimmerman, it seems not to matter what the actual evidence is in this case. No rioter put down a rock or a Molotov cocktail to read the grand-jury report. When the prosecutor’s speech aired on a split screen with a “riot cam” on the Ferguson streets, the networks were not expecting calm. They expected — and were far too eager — to chronicle a riot and squeeze some ratings out of the mayhem.
For those who argue Ferguson isn’t an “agenda” story, let’s consider some other recent stories the media won’t touch. In Milwaukee, Antoine Devon Pettis, a 20-year-old black male, was charged with raping a 101-year-old woman after the crime scene DNA matched a paternity test sample. Pettis smiled broadly in his mug shot, and later in the courtroom, when he told the media, “Y’all gonna make me a celebrity.”
Making this story national for even a minute would apparently be too racist, just like the Gosnell story, even though the race of the victim is less than relevant considering the horror of the crime.
In Akron, Ohio, white police officer Justin Winebrenner — off-duty and unarmed — was shot by a black man, Kenan Ivery, at Papa Don’s Pub, where he was seated with other cops. Ivery had pulled a gun and the pub staff looked to Winebrenner, a regular customer, to try and calm Ivery. Winebrenner was shot in the torso and died. Four others, including another off-duty cop, were wounded.
So far in 2014, 45 police officers in America have been fatally shot (and 111 overall have died), according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. None of them, or their families, have received any fraction of the attention or sympathy that America has offered to Michael Brown’s family.
The “wealth” of national publicity on local crimes is distributed with remarkable inequality. The exercise of “news judgment” is performed with extreme prejudice, and there will be no attempts at redistribution.