Importance of hit-and-run crash deaths in the news media


One of the question sets I posed in this morning’s crash analysis article was about the attention hit-and-run crashes receive in news media:

Why are certain people who die emphasized in news media reporting? Why are other people ignored? In other words, of the 315 people who died in traffic crashes in 2010, how many got a newspaper article written about them?

In the Sunday’s Chicago Tribune newspaper, I found a tiny article at the bottom of the pictured page (above) for the deadlier of the two crashes from Saturday: a toddler and a 6-year-old in Brighton Park. If there was an article about Jesse Bradley in the same paper, I didn’t find it.

11 thoughts on “Importance of hit-and-run crash deaths in the news media”

  1. Don’t you find the disparity in coverage of different types of deaths rather odd?  Hit and run deaths sometimes get minimized or buried.  Metra collisions with pedestrians, bikes or vehicles usually get major coverage.  CTA deaths often get little or no coverage.  I think they all matter and should all get coverage.

    When I lived in Rogers Park, I was aware of a number of CTA and hit and run deaths that never got any coverage at all, at least not through media sources that reached more than a handful of people.  I learned a lot more from neighborhood blogs about what was happening than I ever learned from any official news source.

    Now it seems that social media are changing the playing field.  It’s been my gut feeling for a while that blogs and Twitter sometimes force the hand of MSM to cover incidents that wouldn’t have seen the light of day 10 years ago.  Back then, MSM never ever covered suicides by CTA train.  I knew about incidents from people on the trains, witnesses who happened to be there, or police sources, and looked for coverage, and it was always hushed up.  Now at least one witness is likely to post such news via social media.  I don’t think MSM want to be scooped by an amateur, so I think they now feel pressure to give some coverage, even if it’s a subject they would have shunned in the past.

    I’ve also noticed differences between what runs online vs. what runs in print or on air.  Some stories run on one side or the other, but not both.  I didn’t see the print editions of the Trib on Sunday or Monday.  They did run online stories on both dates about Jesse Bradley.

    1. The Jesse Bradley hit-and-run death had photos of the car and the mugshots of the offender.
      I’m afraid that my fatality tracker is going to be incomplete because my sole source of information is the Tribune and Sun-Times. I hope that others will send in the information they have about pedestrians, bicyclist, and transit deaths in Chicago.
      I could also scour EveryBlock. When I heard 9 (!) gunshots while hanging out with a friend near Augusta and Oakley Boulevards then saw a car getting chased by several cops, I checked EveryBlock later that night and got the full scoop.

  2. Compare this ignomonious treatment to pedestrians to a “man bites dog” story: in 2002, a pedestrian mob (!) killed a driver who had crashed into a building, injuring its occupants, then dispersed before the police could identify anyone. That act garnered *weeks* of Page One headlines in the Tribune, with lots of cluck-clucking about how dangerous and lawless the neighborhood was.

    But two innocent children bleeding to death in the street, mauled by a faceless villain? Eh, just phone the story in. You know, shit happens around cars. Car drivers get away with murdering four Americans every single day.

    Other people fear street crime; I fear hit-and-runs. Just thinking about them makes me okay with the idea of a surveillance state, with cameras at every intersection to catch those drivers who think their precious seconds are worth more than someone else’s hopes and dreams.

    1. I don’t like that definition of “pedestrian”, implied but your summary and maybe by the original article (which I can’t read). As a transportation planner I think a person should only be called (identified as?) a pedestrian when they are transporting themselves by foot (or by mobility device) to another destination, and the transporting is not the destination in itself.

      1. No, they weren’t traveling by foot, but arrived at the site on foot. Still, given the severe power imbalance between people in cars and people on foot (again, kind of like the classic “man bites dog” headline), it’s the closest I could imagine to an equivalent situation.

  3. Coverage of shootings are here and there, too.  I personally know of two shootings, one fatal, one not, and both did not make it into the news.  Sometimes a fire with no deaths is reported and I often wonder why it made it into the news.  Aren’t there fires everyday?  What makes it newsworthy?  Your other article about hit and runs also made me realize that hit and no run accidents aren’t covered much either.  

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