How Many Black Men Do You Have to Murder to Make the Front Page of the New York Times?

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Aug. 13 2010 9:13 AM

How Many Black Men Do You Have to Murder to Make the Front Page of the New York Times?

After a serial-murder spree that left at least 5 people dead and 13 more wounded, spanning three states and four months, suspected killer Elias Abuelazam was captured at the Atlanta airport Wednesday night as he tried to flee the country. In the series of vicious attacks, a man picked out strangers who were alone on the street, lured them to his vehicle, and then stabbed them with a knife, bludgeoning one with a hammer for variety.

Want to know more? Pick up a copy of the New York Times. No, not the front page. The front page has a follow-up story on an Alzheimer's research discovery, a follow-up story on the Russian spy scandal, a follow-up story on the "Ground Zero mosque" controversy. Down at the bottom are teasers for the Eat Pray Love review and an online project where readers submitted photos of ugly animals.

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Open up the front. Flip past the International section ("Diving the Depths in a Quest for Pearls and a Connection With Kuwait's Past"). OK, the National section starts on A12. "Green Light and Delay On Same-Sex Marriage"... A13: "Hoping a Pledge to Skip a Salary Resonates With Voters"... "Inquiry on Harvard Lab Threatens Ripple Effect"...

Oh, there. Page A14.

"Man Held in Connection With 18 Stabbings, 5 Fatal." Fourteen paragraphs, one reporter, Atlanta dateline. No stringers in Michigan, where the attacks began, or Virginia or Ohio, where they continued. No names of the deceased.

The story does mention that most of Abuelazam's victims were black men. There's a dispute over whether or not they were singled out because of their race—the suspect, Abuelazam, is white and an Israeli immigrant—but the attacks were savage and predatory either way.

Not, however, savage or predatory enough to really interest the New York Times. Probably, in its usual tortured-liberal way, the newspaper will realize this was an oversight. Maybe it will send a reporter or two to Flint, Michigan to reconstruct the murders, write sensitive-seeming profiles of the victims, plant the whole thing with fragrant gray word-flowers and spread it all out for the Sunday readers. Or if the racism angle turns out to be true, maybe we'll get a searing portrait of the evil forces that drove the killer.

Right now, though, what we have is the newspaper's gut reaction. The arrest was announced yesterday morning, so the Times had plenty of opportunity to work the story as hard as the editors thought appropriate: 

Five dead.

A14. 

Tom Scocca is the managing editor of Deadspin and the author of Beijing Welcomes You: Unveiling the Capital City of the Future.