Whose life is newsworthy?

apples_to_applesYesterday an elderly white supremacist shot and killed a private security guard at the Holocaust Museum in Washington. The horrible act comes on the heels of the murder of an American soldier at a military recruiting center, which itself came on the heels of the murder of late-term abortion doctor George Tiller. Each of the alleged murderers had different motives. While we'll learn more about the Holocaust Museum shooter, I'm glad tmatt highlighted that Associated Press story on the man charged with killing Private William Andrew Long, the army recruiter.

We had previously discussed the disparity in coverage between the murders of Tiller and Long and Alicia Shephard, the ombudsman for National Public Radio, wrote about it as well in a provocative post titled Whose Life is More Newsworthy?:

Some listeners last week were concerned that NPR had done 8 stories or segments on air about the murder of Dr. George Tiller, a well-known Kansas doctor who performed abortions, and none on the murder of Army Pvt. William Long, 23.

While I certainly think Tiller's assassination is more newsworthy than Private Long's murder, eight to zero is a pretty significant disparity. NPR Managing Editor David Sweeney explained:

"The fact we gave more coverage to the killing of Tiller doesn't diminish the value of Long's life," said Sweeney. "But Tiller was a national figure given his practice and the attention he drew from abortion opponents. His killing has wider implications for the emotive debate on abortion on this country and we have covered those angles in reporting his death."

If I were an NPR editor, I would defend covering Tiller's assassination more than Long's. However, both stories have wide implications. As does the murder of Stephen Tyrone Johns, the security guard gunned down yesterday. Even though he's not a national figure, I would hope NPR would cover his death and, I imagine, they already have. It will be interesting to see how the coverage of Johns' death compares with Long's.

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