Archive for category: Blog
The video of Yankee closer Mariano Rivera being carted off the field after tearing his ACL and, perhaps, ending his magnificent career, stays fixed in the mind, perhaps because of the open, earnest smile that Rivera flashes to his teammates as he rides the cart back to the training room. The look on his face is so benign, so genuine that in a single image, it seems to summon everything about the man.
Okay, I’m an Oriole fan. And before I moved to Baltimore, I grew up in D.C. with the Washington Senators. The Yankees — damn them — are my lifelong bete noir. And I have seen Mariano Rivera go lights out on the home team in so many one- and two-run games that I should rightly be unable to summon anything more than a basic, casual amount of empathy at the idea that at forty-two years of age, with Cooperstown dusting a spot for him, he might not to be able to do it anymore.
Except that warm, sheepish smile — as if he’s embarrassed this happened while shagging outfield flies, as if he’s a little apologetic for somehow becoming the center of attention — is pure Rivera. The guy is to be loved. Even from Baltimore.
Told myself I wasn’t going to battle the crowds to see Springsteen close out the first weekend. No disrespect to Springsteen, but I usually hover around the smaller stages at the fest, hoping to see music in a more intimate setting. But it happened by degrees. First, my son lured us closer to the Acura stage with lurid talk of strawberry shortcake from the vendors nearby. Then, following that shameful little spectacle, we noticed that Al Green wasn’t on the Congo Square stage for another forty minutes.
“Let’s check Springsteen out for half an hour, and then catch Al Green.”
An unarmed black teenager was shot to death in Florida recently. You probably read about it or caught the controversy on the tube. A lot of people are saying that the kid deserved it, that he attacked the fellow with the gun, that he was a thug, that he’d been suspended from school, that he wasn’t so innocent as people think. Others are saying the gunman is racist, that he’s a self-appointed vigilante, that he had no business trailing the kid, that he’s kind of a nutcase.
And day after day, as the case winds toward a trial date, this beast that we have for a modern media culture will parse it with a few more shards of information and rumor, true and false. Trayvon might have shoplifted the Skittles. Zimmerman had no visible injuries. Zimmerman had injuries but they didn’t show on camera. Trayvon smoked pot.
It’s what we do. It’s all that we do, really.
Published in the Media Studies Journal of the Freedom Forum Media Studies Center at Columbia University, this was an argument for a return to narrative as a means of humanizing crime coverage. I’d just published my first book and contemplating the second. At this point, though, this is a rather amusing artifact given how the argument for narrative led me, kicking and screaming, out of journalism entirely.
At the moment you begin reading this, some poor bastard three years out of journalism school is sitting at a video-display terminal in a newspaper office somewhere in these United States, fingers darting on a keyboard. No doubt a cursor flashes through line after line of the same simple, tired
“A 17-year-old West Baltimore youth was shot to death yesterday in a murder that police say is related to drugs….”
Or, perhaps: “The battered body of a 25-year-old Queens resident was found by police along the shoulder of a Long Island expressway….” ‘
Or: “A 43-year-old East Los Angeles man was found stabbed to death in the trunk of his car…”
Behold the entrails of any large American newspaper’s metro section—misdemeanor homicides, casualties that will for the most part be interred in four paragraphs or less in those around-the-region packages. Oh sure, if someone is unfortunate enough to be killed in the right zip code, if the victim happens to be famous, if he or she is killed for some unusual motive or in some unusual way (“Police said it was the first slaying involving a staple gun in more than a decade.”), then chances are a good newspaper will give it some space. But most violence, when it first crosses a city editor’s path, looks decidedly similar: drug murder, drug murder, robbery murder, domestic, drug murder.