Yellow Journalism, anybody?
The age-old practice of cherry picking statistics to try and make an exaggerated point is alive and well at 18th and Grand in the newsroom of the Kansas City Star.
Or as the Urban Dictionary puts it, “argument by selective observation.”
However it’s one thing for Kansas City’s newspaper of record to run over-sensationalized, under-reported news stories into the ground. Stories like the Verruckt water slide decapitation of an 11 year-old boy at Schlitterbahn WaterPark and the ridiculously foolhardy, accidental death of Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura.
Clearly, the nucleus of both stories were newsworthy…up to a point.
That said, the Star was among the last to meekly report the awful truth that the Chicago Tribune and other media shouted in headlines such as, “Boy was decapitated on waterslide at Kansas park, source says.”
Nor did the newspaper probe beyond an embarrassingly minimally mention of the fact that Ventura’s blood test results at the time of his wee hours car wreck in the Dominican Republic in January were being bogusly withheld from the media. Especially given that what was known about the deceased pitcher’s final hours appeared to point in the direction of him being wasted and driving on a needlessly dangerous road after a day and night of partying.
Do you think if it had been one of Donald Trump‘s kids or subordinates, the Star would have taken a pass on digging for the drug test results?
More importantly, Ventura’s sobriety or lack thereof is significant given that the results hinge on a $20 million-plus in payoff to Ventura’s family. The Royals reportedly may not be required to pay the balance of his contract if it can be shown that he was drunk.
The flip side of the journalistic sports hommie’s letting Ventura off of the news hook:
When St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras killed himself and his girlfriend in a car crash in the very same Dominican Republic three years back, it was widely reported that he was “exceedingly drunk.”
Oh yeah, the same officials the Star failed to grill about Ventura’s blood test confirmed to the news media that Taveras had been legally intoxicated with an alcohol blood level six times the legal limit.
And when Miami Marlins star pitcher Jose Fernandez died last year in one of the dumbest boating accidents ever, it was learned and reported that not only was he drunk, he had cocaine in his system.
Where was Star sports scribe Sam Mellinger when it came time to call for transparency in Ventura’s blood tests?
Let’s get back to yellow journalism…
Starting with Sunday’s gigantic front page newspaper headline:
Followed by in far smaller type by the subhead, “Crime statistics reveal Kansas City’s disturbing homicide trend.”
Yet after unleashing the above over-the-top rhetoric, readers learn in the story that homicide rates in the Cowtown have actually declined – just marginally less than other carefully cherry picked cities like the past year’s violent crime headline grabber Chicago.
However, as CBS Chicago reporter Mason Johnson noted far more even handedly in 2015, “I took the FBI’s information and looked at the cities with the most violent crime — murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. I did not do this so we could come together and crown a ‘murder capital’ or determine who truly is the ‘worst.’ My intention is to share what is essentially a sliver of information about our cities, a handful of numbers that contribute to a much bigger picture. (And) ultimately, these rates should be taken with a grain of salt. Alone, they do not represent our cities.”
Contrast that to the Star’s “Murder Capital” headline designed to titillate an oldster readership.
What’s more, by narrowing the focus to just homicides, the newspaper was able to obscure and diminish the far more important statistic of violent crime.
Case in point, CBS Chicago reports that in 2014 the violent crime rate in U.S. was 365.5 persons for every 100,000 residents.
The murder rate on the other hand, a paltry 4.5 persons per 100,000.
Meaning murder accounts for barely one percent of the violent crimes in this country.
In addition, the nation’s largest cities seem to have far lower violent crime rates than smaller cities such as Kansas City.
CBS Chicago reports that among America’s three biggest cities, “Chicago had the highest violent crime rate at 884.26 violent crimes per capita. New York City had a rate of 596.7 and Los Angeles had a rate of 490.71.”
Violent crime leader Detroit had 1988.63 per 100,000 in the survey, Memphis 1740.51, St. Louis 1678.73 and KC 1251.45.
In other words, for all the hoopla about how bad Chicago’s become, by some measure it’s actually better off than cities like KC and Cleveland.
That said, it’s true violent crime’s been on the rise the past two years.
However according to the statistics in Time Magazine, Kansas City appears unlikely to be crowned a “murder capital” anytime soon.
Case in point, KC’s 127 homicides in 2016 made for a 5.4 percent increase.
The Windy City had 762 homicides, up 11.4 percent.
According to the Star, KC’s”stubbornly high homicide rate is decreasing at a slower rate and is still worse than…Chicago.”
Even in a more apples-to-apples comparison, Memphis had 190 homicides, up 9.1 percent.
The bottom line on murder in America:
It’s a very small percentage of violent crime in this country and Kansas City appears a long way away from being labeled a “murder capital” anywhere outside of the newsroom of the Kansas City Star.