This morning, a recently-fired man went to his former workplace near the Empire State Building in New York City, shot his former boss in the face, and then opened fire on eight more people before he was shot and killed by police. This tragedy follows three other high profile shootings, the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado last month, the Sikh temple shooting in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, and a gunman’s invasion of a far right advocacy organization in Washington, DC.
Like these three other tragedies, this morning’s shooting also targeted an area that most people expect to be a sanctuary away from gun violence. Most Americans do not fear violence in a movie theater, or that they will be targeted in their workplace or their place of worship. Additionally, the neighborhood surrounding today’s shooting is one of the most privileged neighborhoods in the country. Median household income in the census tract that includes the Empire State Building exceeds $100,000 a year. Approximately half of the neighborhood’s residents are white, and African-Americans and Latinos make up only a small percentage of the area’s residents.
This morning’s shooting, however, was not the only mass shooting to occur during the present news cycle. To the contrary, 19 people were shot last night in Chicago alone — 18 of them in incidents that claimed more than one victim. Yet these events received only a tiny fraction of the wall to wall media coverage surrounding the Empire State Building shooting:
- Late Afternoon Shooting: Before the sun even set, at about 5:20 pm last night, four men were wounded in Chicago’s South Lawndale area. South Lawndale is about 80 percent Hispanic, and its median household earns about a third of what people who live in the Empire State Building’s neighborhood earn.
- Bronzeville Shooting: Two men were shot around 9:25 pm last night, one in the head and one in the right arm, in Bronzeville — one of Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods. Median household income in Bronzeville was less than $12,000 in 2009, and the neighborhood is almost entirely African-American.
- Brighton Park Drive-by: Two men were wounded in a drive-by shooting at about the same time as the Bronzeville shooting in the Brighton Park neighborhood. Brighton Park is a mostly Hispanic neighborhood whose median household earns less than half what people who live near the Empire State Building earn.
- South Shore Shootings: Around 9:30 pm last night, eight people were shot in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood, including two 14 year-old boys and a 15 year-old boy. About ten minutes later, in a separate incident just blocks away, a 24 year-old man was shot in the leg while talking on his phone. South Shore is an overwhelmingly African-American neighborhood where household income is less than a third of that in the neighborhood surrounding the Empire State Building.
It is understandable that the editors and top producers who decide which news events receive media coverage and which ones are largely ignored would find the Empire State Building shooting particularly jarring. Top news editors are fairly affluent, and this morning’s shooting is a reminder that no one is safe from gun violence, regardless of how privileged their lives may be.
But it is no less a tragedy when someone closer to the margins of society is the victim of such violence than it is when violence intrudes into the fortresses of the fortunate. The victims of last night’s Chicago shootings should not be ignored simply because top news editors might find it more difficult to identify with them.
There is some uncertainty regarding how many of the wounded were shot by the gunman and how many may have been hit by crossfire from police. In a news conference regarding the incident, Mayor Michael Bloomberg stated that “at least nine other people were shot. And some may have been shot accidentally by police officers who responded immediately and, while confronting the suspect and fatally shooting him, unfortunately there may have been other victims as well”