I don’t think it happens very often that opinion writers break the news. They tend to opine on the fact previously presented – or at least that’s my general impression. But Tuesday, Virginian-Pilot columnist Michelle Washington broke a story – and it has reverberated around the country, courtesy of a link from Drudge Report.
A number of the commenters on the story seemed to confuse op-eds and reports, calling for Washington’s story to be on the front page of the newspaper. Um, no. There has always been a line between the news side and the editorial side of the newspaper, as the editors (Finley, Luzzatto) of the respective pages pointed out a couple of years ago. Obviously, it’s time to dust off those columns and put them out there again, because while newspapers observe this very bright line, it seems most of the rest of the media does not.
As to why the story was not reported as news, we have this from Denis Finley. The excuse may sound lame, but it is what it is: a case of simple assault. I happened to have caught both the 5:30pm and 6pm newscast of WAVY Wednesday. The smoking gun – that a box was checked on the police report that indicated it was a hate crime – turns out to have been a computer glitch. The TV reporter said that something was written in the box next to it, causing the computer to check the box.
As far as the attitude of the police is concerned – they have now issued a statement on the incident. (The City of Norfolk posted the statement to its Facebook page. Sometimes, you can take social media too far. Not everyone has – or wants – a Facebook account.) They deny the officer made the statements attributed to him. One was particularly galling: telling a victim to “shut up.”
So what, really, do we have? We have a group of black thugs attacking a white couple. And it is this element of race that is really at the center of the firestorm.
If the races of the perpetrators and victims had been the same – both white or both black – we would be focusing on the real problem: thugs attacking an innocent couple.Would that have made the news?
But it is, instead, far easier to focus on the race here. Because race, above all, remains the thing that continues to divide us. Statistics – like these (pg 13) that show that most murder perpetrators and victims are of the same race – be damned. Almost since the beginning of our country, the media has whipped up fear in whites of blacks.
Until and unless this country deals with the issue of race, we can forget about doing something about the crime problem.
I wrote the above last night, with plans to publish it this morning, but forgot to set the auto-post. The newspaper today has a more expanded explanation from Finley, as well as this editorial, which, ironically, comes to a similar conclusion as I did: we have work to do on the issue of race.