Follow-up on Times coverage of New Orleans parade shooting

In Monday’s paper, the story was not mentioned on the front page. Instead, it received a very small wire service blurb at the bottom of page 11.

There is currently a manhunt in New Orleans for the parade shooter. Horrifying photographs have been released. This, too is absent from the Times.

The most prominent story on the website currently is about attractive and colourful snakes. See below:

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UPDATE: The Times today has a more in-depth piece on the shooting, focusing on the risks of second-lines. Obviously they deserve credit for at last giving due coverage to the event. I will add, however, that this does not mitigate the Times’s failure to treat the event as “news” in the way that similar events affecting other populations would be (a hypothetical: would a Boston Marathon shooting with 19 injuries receive a blurb, followed by a profile days later?). This piece, to me, is simply the same “New Orleans Still A Violent Town” profile that runs semi-annually in the paper. I think the tone of these articles suggests a fatalism, a kind of attitude towards New Orleans that suggest the violence is inevitable and systemic and therefore lacks the kind of urgency that responses to other places’ violence receive. Again, I’m pleased the Times ran this! But this kind of coverage, where it’s not headline news, it’s a quasi-anthopological profile, has tonal problems of its own.

A photographer who worked on the story replies to my original post below:

I appreciate your post, your sensitivity to the news coverage of Sunday’s tragic events, and your letter to the NYT. I’m sure you saw the story running in today’s edition, but wanted to be sure that it was added to this post.

I’m a photographer based in New Orleans, and worked on this this story with two different writers. I was at the parade on Sunday, in the intersection where the shooting occurred, and began reporting on the event immediately. One of the writers has extensive personal relationships within the second-line and brass band communities, and I feel that we did a responsible job of contextualizing the day’s events and how they fit into a larger discussion of New Orleans and urban violence. The story led the National section in today’s newspaper, ran out front on the website all morning, and is at the top of the US page right now. It can be difficult to provide immediate and adequate coverage of something like this mass shooting, especially in a place where violence is a tragically common occurrence. In this case I think we were better able to humanize the victims and our community at large when we took a bit more time to do so.

Will Widmer

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