Thursday, May 11, 2006

"Murdered while Black" = "Spike the Story?"

Rachael Entwhistle, with daughter LillianThree women.

What do these three women have in common?

All three are from the Boston area, and all three were murdered under circumstances to make any tabloid editor willing to blast the story with 140-pt type.

Dominique Samuels (yearbook photo)

Three women.

Now, what do two of these women have in common, and the third doesn’t?

The stories of their murders made national headlines, and the stories stayed in the limelight for weeks.

Imette St. GuillenThree women.

Can you guess which two?

Can you guess what else those two have in common, but not the third?

If you guessed that the first and third were the ones whose stories had legs, you have already guessed what they had in common.

They are, in order:
  • Rachael Entwhistle, 27, murdered in her Hopkington home, with her infant daughter, Lillian. Her husband has been arrested for the murders, after he was extradited from England

  • Dominique Samuels, age 19, murdered and her almost nude body burned in a field behind a local hospital

  • Imette St. Guillen, age 24, a student from Boston, murdered outside a club in the Bowery.  A bouncer from that club has been arrested and charged with her murder

  • The Entwhistle and St. Guillen murders garnered weeks of publicity and media profiles from the instant that the bodies were discovered, partly because the circumstances were so tabloid-worthy.

    Yet Dominique Samuels, whose murder should be prime fodder for the news cycle, has been ignored by the media outside of the Boston area.

    Samuels, a young girl who was a part-time student in community college, had been captain of the cheerleading squad at her high school, was murdered, her body, clothed only in shorts and one sneaker, was dumped into Franklin Park behind the Lemuel Shattuck hospital, doused with accelerant and put ablaze.

    This should have all the legs of any big story – a young, pretty woman, well-liked, described as a “big sister to everybody,” who liked to bake cookies and make sandwiches for her friends, a murder and a horrific treatment of the body, either in hatred and spite or as an attempt to disguise the identity of the victim.

    But where is the attention from the wider media?

    I don’t usually watch the television news, and my newspaper reading outside of the Boston papers is usually limited to the politics, national and international news sections.  I had thought that it seemed there was no coverage of Samuels murder outside of Boston, but I put it down to my reading the “wrong sections.”  Apparently I wasn’t the only one wondering.

    This question was also asked by one of the Boston dailies, the Boston Herald.  The Herald contacted both CNN and FOX about the disparity:
    Cable talk show hosts and local radio talk jocks tirelessly debated every new development as well as the evidence and motives in the Entwistle and St. Guillen murders. Coverage hit saturation levels.

    Nancy Grace of CNN’s Headline News was among the cable hosts who covered the St. Guillen and Entwistle cases extensively.

    Janine Iamunno, a spokeswoman for Grace, said the show’s researchers hadn’t learned of Samuels’ murder until contacted by the Herald yesterday. Grace plans to put the case on her show tonight and cover it more extensively next week, Iamunno said.

    A bevy of other cable network hosts, including Greta Van Susteren of Fox News, also extensively covered the Entwistle and St. Guillen cases, but have not addressed Samuels’ murder . A Fox spokeswoman declined comment. ...
    Sadly, there have been enough other cases of “missing/murdered while black” that just slip under the news writer’s notice to dismiss this as just a case of it being overlooked.

    As Errol Cockfield, himself a reporter for Newsday and a board member of the National Association of Black journalists, said to the Herald’s reporter:

    … if the national media doesn’t pick up the Samuels murder, “It’s proof to me that there’s something wrong with newsroom managers in terms of how they think about race.

    “It’s the same old story with the national media,” Cockfield added. “It’s clear to me that if it’s a white woman who is affected that more attention is paid to than if a black woman is affected.”

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