Letters to The Editor, Week of May 23, 2019

Police Blotter and race

To The Editor:

As a resident of Chelsea, I take exception to your “Black Corner” a.k.a. Police Blotter/Crime-Stoppers Hotline, wherein you, courtesy of the N.Y.P.D., routinely identify the “race” of criminal suspects, above and beyond the photos you may run with the narratives about the perps.

This either witting or casual use of race in crime reporting offends good journalistic practices. Indeed, newspaper ethics and journalist watchdogs advise against this practice, reminding newspapers that their purpose is not to function as mere stenographers for the police or for government officials in reporting violent and other garden-variety crimes in the community.

Michael Meyers, of the New York Civil Rights Coalition, argues that the use of race to describe suspects in the Police Blotter should be much more limited.

The watchdogs, including the Associated Press, contend that the reflexive and casual identification by race of suspects is wrong. Such groups as the Society of Professional Journalists contend that the use of race is especially suspect by the press when such information is not likely to advance the community’s understanding of the nature of the crime or likely to aid in the actual suspect’s identification and capture. The AP Stylebook also takes sharp exception to identifying criminal suspects’ supposed “race” when race is neither pertinent to the story nor a factor in the motivation behind the crime (such as the case with “hate” incidents).

What do you advance other than racialist or racist stirrings when for instance you reported (on April 18) that a robbery was committed by two suspects “described as black, between age 20 and 30, and last seen wearing all dark clothing” — even if your report had added that the perps were wearing a T-shirt, jeans and sneakers?

I urge you to rethink your policy on use of “race” in crime reporting, and to use the suspect’s race only where it is relevant to the story, such as when reporting a race-related hate crime.

Michael Meyers
Meyers is president, New York Civil Rights Coalition

Editor’s note: Thank you for raising an important subject about reporting on crime. Each media outlet makes its own considered decision on how to handle this issue. Police provide suspects’ descriptions in order to help identify them and, yes, to get people to call in tips to the CrimeStoppers Hotline. Printing suspects’ descriptions in the newspaper can also help residents’ safety.


Passive recreation space

To The Editor:

Re “Gansevoort playing-field need in play” (news article, may 16):

I have lived in the West Village since the 1990s. My building, on Barrow St., is a tenement with 20 units. There are no children living in the building. None. And there haven’t been, for years. I’m just guessing, but families with kids might make up 5 percent or less of the West Village demographic as a whole. Does that sound right?
I feel confident that while they aren’t vocal about it, my neighbors would prefer spaces to walk, sit, read, lie on some grass, instead of active recreation fields. A passive recreation space like Central Park’s Sheep Meadow serves 200 people at a time, while a soccer field taking up that space serves 22.

Dave Stewart


Those were the days

To The Editor:

Re “London Terrace: Charming — and that pool!” (Real Estate, May 16)

My mother had an apartment there in the 1930s. It was so expensive, she was afraid to tell her parents the rent was $75 a month.

Mike Conway


E-mail letters, not longer than 250 words in length, to news@thevillager.com or fax to 212-229-2790 or mail to The Villager, Letters to the Editor, 1 MetroTech North, 10th floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201. Please include phone number for confirmation purposes. The Villager reserves the right to edit letters for space, grammar, clarity and libel. Anonymous letters will not be published.

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