A terror attack unfolded in New York City last week, according to charges brought by prosecutors. A Baltimore man—white, a veteran, wildly racist—told police he’d traveled to New York City to hunt black men, an act he believed would convince white women to stop having interracial relationships. He found a 66-year-old black man busy rifling through trash for recyclables and stabbed him repeatedly with a two-foot-long sword. The victim, unarmed, staggered to a police station before dying later in a hospital.
If that description makes you wonder what sartorial choices the alleged murderer made before the killing, or whether the victim had been caught smoking pot more than a decade ago, you might not find flaws in recent coverage of the death of Timothy Caughman, says the Columbia Journalism Review. Some readers were dissatisfied with the way the story unfolded in the city’s tabloid pages, as a case-study of a preventable media problem: biased reporting that habitually dehumanizes black men and treats them as a threat. CJR says that, “Newsrooms must do more to stop the reductive habit of viewing black men, even when they’re victims of crime, through a lens of threat—a common problem on the crime beat, where the news is always grim and seems to wear on writers. How else can one explain the total lack of empathy apparent in early reports from the New York Post and New York Daily News?” The Post called Caughman a “career criminal,” even though he hadn’t been arrested since 2002.