THE WAGES OF STORYLINE: One was injured, one was killed!


The role of Storyline: Did Charles Blow's recent column raise a serious point of concern about next year's election?

We haven't seen any statistics about the possible point of concern Blow raised in his column. For what will be the fourth time, we'll describe that point of concern below.

First, though, there's Storyline. 

Also, there are two news reports by the New York Times. Also, there was the selection of topics under discussion on today's Morning Joe.

Let's start with those two news reports.

Each report concerns a young person who was shot by a stranger while doing nothing wrong. One young person was shot and badly injured. The other young person was shot and killed.

The one young person—he's 16 years old—had knocked on the door, or had perhaps rung the doorbell, at a house in Kansas City, Missouri. 

It wasn't the house he'd intended to go to. He was shot and badly injured by the 84-year-old homeowner.

The other young person—she was 20—had driven into a driveway in rural Hebron, New York. She had done this for the sole purpose of turning her car around. 

Without even getting out of her car, she was shot, and she was killed, by the 65-year-old homeowner.

Enter Storyline! More to the point, enter the journalistic judgments which may reflect matters of preferred Storyline.

Herewith, an obvious point. Moses descended from Mount Sinai with no tablet which can tell the nation's news orgs how to treat these rather similar shooting events. 

Are these two events essentially the same? Are they essentially different?

Is one of these events more significant than the other? There is no tablet, and no scientific formula, which can tell a major news org how to answer such questions.

That said, the gods may be testing our national news orgs with this nearly simultaneous pair of roughly similar events. Beyond that, the gods may be giving us a chance to review a powerful piece of Storyline which has driven a large part of the national discourse over the past dozen years.

For the record, the Kansas City shooting occurred last Thursday night. The shooting in upstate New York happened on Saturday night. 

We'll assume that this point of chronology explains, or helps explain, the different way these somewhat similar shootings have been treated, to date, by the New York Times. 

How has the New York Times handled these shootings? To date, the answer is this:

In this morning's New York Times, the Kansas City shooting is the subject of a full-length, front-page report. 

The fatal shooting in upstate New York isn't mentioned in that report. Indeed, it isn't mentioned anywhere else in today's print edition. 

That fatal shooting in upstate New York is the subject of this online New York Times report. That online report draws am explicit connection to the Kansas City shooting.

Again, we assume the different way these events have been treated results, at least in part, from matters of chronology. Simply put, news orgs have had more time to assemble information about the shooting in Kansas City.

That said, there are certain questions about these two events each news org will have to decide:

Are these events the same, or different? Is one of these shooting events more significant, or perhaps more newsworthy, than the other event?

Is the fatal shooting more significant because the shooting was fatal? Is the non-fatal shooting more significant because it seems to involve the never-ending, extremely important backwash from our nation's brutal racial history?

There is no perfect answer to any such question. Eventually, the nation's news orgs, and the nation's citizens, will simply have to decide.

That said, we were surprised by the role which Storyline seemed to play on today's Morning Joe. The journalistic judgment of the past dozen years seemed to have been turned on its head.

Starting in early 2012 with the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, shootings like the one in Kansas City have been given substantial prominence within the mainstream press.

Often, you could tell that these shootings were taken to be of very high significance. You could tell that by the way our various news organs misstated, embellished and disappeared basic facts about such events, thereby creating versions of such events which adhered, with more perfection, to preferred Storyline.

This morning, on Morning Joe, a different type of judgment seemed to prevail. During the program's first hour, the shooting in Kansas City wasn't mentioned until 6:33 A.M. 

At thar time, it was very briefly reported and discussed. At that point, the talkers moved on. 

Al Sharpton joined the program at the start of the 7 o'clock hour. As of a commercial break at 7:20, the shooting hadn't been mentioned by Reverend Sharpton, or by anyone else.

To our ear, this seemed to suggest a major change in corporate Storyline. We'll mention one more current event:

A third shooting event has been in the news within the past 24 hours. In Akron, Ohio, it was decided that police officers won't be charged for having shot and killed a young motorist who was fleeing arrest.

Such events have formed powerful Storyline for roughly the past dozen years. Somewhere within the inner sanctum of MSNBC, it seems that someone has decided, as of last evening and as of this morning, that a new approach will be taken to such events.

As of this morning, it isn't clear that the New York Times will adopt some such new approach. But within the realm of Storyline, such decisions routinely occur. 

"Storyline" involves what sorts of things will be said about such events. 

That said, "Storyline" also refers to the amount of emphasis which will be given to such events. To what extent will certain events be discussed, and what sorts of things will be said?

On MSNBC, shooting events aimed at young black people seem to have been downgraded as a matter of Storyline. A similar downgrade seemed to obtain on last evening's 11th Hour, where Stephanie Ruhle discussed the Kansas City shooting for only five minutes, in her program's final segment.

(What other topics were given more prominence? We'll tell you this afternoon.)

At the New York Times, the shooting which took place in Kansas City has become a front-page event. The fatal shooting in upstate New York will most likely never achieve that status. 

That is a function of Storyline, and Storyline is a function of (imperfect) human judgment.

We thought about the recent history of Storyline when we read Blow's column last week. We also thought about Angel Reese, a 20-year-old All-American basketball player who recently went viral.

In his column, Blow seemed to suggest that declining turnout among young black votes could doom Joe Biden next year. 

When we read that speculation, we thought about the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. We also thought about Angel Reese, and about the good, decent people all over the country who are roughly her age.

Tomorrow: Storyline versus fact


  1. What tribe do these fine real American folks belong to?

    Oklahoma's governor is seeking the resignation of four county officials after a newspaper's audio recording apparently captured some of them complaining about two of the paper's journalists and knowing hit men and where two holes are dug.

    A portion of the recording was released by the paper, and it also appears to capture one of the four making racist comments about Black people.

    Gov. Kevin Stitt said Sunday he was seeking the resignations of McCurtain County Sheriff Kevin Clardy and three other county officials: sheriff’s Capt. Alicia Manning, District 2 Commissioner Mark Jennings and Jail Administrator Larry Hendrix.

    I only learned about it watching Rachel Maddow last night.

  2. We need to discuss race or mental health, because it's too soon to talk about guns.
    Sorry, we don't make the media rules. The Right-wing does.

    1. People seem to buy guns because they are afraid. The right wing stokes fear among its supporters because that motivates them to vote conservative. It also motivates them to buy and keep guns in their homes.

      Perhaps instead of discussing economic anxiety on the right, we should be discussing racial anxiety and the deliberate way in which Republicans have linked black people and crime. Just as there can be incitement to riot, there can be incitement to commit these fear-based crimes against innocent people based on skin color.

      Guns result in loss of life, but encouraging self defense in white people to the point that they are attacking and interfering with black people who are just going about daily activities, is an aspect of racism that needs to be discussed and stopped. Terrorizing black people because white folks are being taught to be afraid of them is an unacceptable aspect of race relations, one that is getting worse in the name of selling more guns.

      Why does Somerby coyly raise race via comparison then refuse to talk about it directly? We already know where he stands, given his passionate defense of Kyle Rittenhouse, that poor wayward young person who was frightened of a mentally ill man, taunted him and killed him, then performed a victory dance down the street and shot a few more people. Then he lied on the stand and shed a few tears and his fellow gun owners declared him not guilty. Somerby gloated about that verdict.

    2. Just look at Gov. Abbot in Texas. He's pretty much declaring Open Season on hunting liberal BLM supporters.

    3. Anyone who is not a bigot, or isn't perfectly fine with bigotry, left the Republican Party more than two decades ago.

  3. Somerby seems very confused in today's article. Is he complaining because the two stories were linked by some reports or because one is being treated differently than the other (one is on the front page today while the other is not). And he has complained in the past about too much focus on the killings of young black people while today he notes that less time was spent talking about them. Is the problem that cable news shows and newspapers make different judgments about treatment of news stories, perhaps even due to space, time and amount of information available?

    A black kid was shot when he went to the door of a 65-year old man's house. A white adult (20 year old) was killed when an 85 year old man fired at a car on a private road in the woods. Are these two cases really that similar? Here are some differences:

    1. The 85 year old may not have seen the passengers clearly, may not have been aiming at them, likely could not see the race of anyone in the car. The shots may have been unaimed warning shots. At 85, there may have been some dementia involved. The road may have been posted with no trespassing signs.

    2. The 16 year old boy could clearly be seen to be black, which introduced race into the situation. He was shot several times, not once, at a range that hardly seems accidental, so intent is clearer. The kid had a legitimate reason to be there, even if he was mistaken about the address. Someone who is 65 is more competent mentally.

    Somerby does not discuss that both situations involve fear and both involve homeowners rights of self defense. Is our society taught to fear 20 year old white women, even in cars? Of course not. But the homeowner most likely couldn't see who he shot and the driver was male. Why would an 85 year old fear a car full of people driving up his road at night? There is more vulnerability in his situation. Should a 65 year old man fear a black kid knocking on his door? What precipitated the shooting? Did the kid get a chance to explain anything or was he just shot.

    We have seen other stories in the past week, which Somerby does not mention, in which white people with guns have clearly considered self defense laws to be a cover for shooting black people. Perry is one, but there is plenty of discussion of shooting rights among gun enthusiasts. Somerby supported Kyle Rittenhouse's right to kill protesters because he was afraid. Does fear justify or excuse either of these two killings? Somerby doesn't mention that at all. He is more concerned with how much screen space or air time each victim got. Perhaps he wanted the young girl to get more and the black kid to get less, but it should be obvious why a tragic accident might get less discussion than a point-blank attempted murder.

    It is difficult to discuss anything involving these two cases when Somerby refuses to clearly state his position about them. The only clear thing he states is that he dislikes Morning Joe. And maybe that is all today's essay is really about -- even though there are important issues involved.

    For the record, I think these two cases have nothing whatsoever to do with black voter turnout, which is not "declining" just because Blow says it is disappointingly low among young people. Somerby is eager to support the conservative meme that Democrats are focing black people into the arms of Republicans, just as they pushed the meme that the Democrats were losing hispanic votes. Both of these ideas are unsupported by 2020 voting demographic analyses. The numbers are always lower for midterm elections. That doesn't stop the right from offering misinformation, which Somerby faithfully promotes here.

    Blow is trying to encourage more black young people to vote, not complaining because the Democrats are losing young black voters. And Angel Reese has nothing to do with any of this, nor has Somerby explained why he even brought up her name.

    1. Correction, the guy who shot the black kid was 85 and the one who shot the girl in the car was 65.

    2. You have it mixed up. The 85 year old man shot the 16 year old boy who rang the door bell.

      Something tells me these folks are watching too much Fox Nooz.

  4. There are probably worthwhile points to be made about these stories, perhaps in terms of compare and contrast. Most obviously, is MSNBC tailoring is coverage to push the outrage button of its viewers ( I have already seen several Facebook posts by people who believe the Kansas City Shooter will simply not be charged with anything because he is white) etc. But Bob is in full pompous mode here and he just does concentric circles, and it’s easy to see where he is going to end up. J


  5. "That is a function of Storyline, and Storyline is a function of (imperfect) human judgment."

    Oh, dear: imperfect human judgment? Puh-leeze, dear Bob. Garden variety race-mongering by your tribe's High Priests.

    ...seriously, Bob. First, you correctly connect your tribe's storyline to the drivel of that "Blow" character, and then you just dismiss it as "imperfect human judgment"? Wtf???

    1. Oh dear, how did you let all these people post before you today, numbnuts?

  6. Both incidents are horrible, and have been reported on as examples of the toxic gun culture in the US, but Missouri has a stand your ground law, New York does not.

    Also, re the Missouri case:

    “I can tell you there was a racial component to this case," [Clay County Prosecuting Attorney Zachary] Thompson said at a news conference without elaborating.

    It’s a bit preliminary to identify a new trend, but perhaps those aspects of the Missouri case led to a “bigger” treatment (so far) from the New York Times, who apparently hasn’t gotten the memo from MSNBC about the change in Storyline (?)

    1. "... the New York Times, who apparently hasn’t gotten the memo..."

      Heh. Don't you think the words "New York" in the name of that rag might've played a role?

    2. Old people will sometimes regress to bad habits they might have once outgrown, and racism is one of them. If they are shut ins, all the more. They watch scary crime shows on TV, etc. it’s sometimes had to get them to stop driving, creating a dangerous problem. But we need to wait till more information emerges on this case..

    3. NY Times is a New York paper and thus would focus on local issues, not just national ones. Why not?

    4. Mao may not understand the difference between New York City and New York State.

    5. Oh, Puh-leeze, Mao does not understand anything.

  7. The second amendment is evil.

    1. The second amendment is not evil. In fact, it is one of the most important and fundamental aspects of our democracy.

      Firstly, the second amendment was added to the Bill of Rights for a reason. It was included to ensure that the people of this country could protect themselves from a tyrannical government. Our founding fathers recognized that governments can become corrupt and oppressive, and that citizens must have the means to defend themselves against such tyranny. The second amendment guarantees that citizens have the right to bear arms and defend themselves against any force that threatens their lives, their liberty, and their property.

      Secondly, the second amendment is a cornerstone of our individual liberty. Our founding fathers believed that every individual has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The second amendment ensures that we have the right to defend these fundamental rights against any force that threatens them. It is a fundamental right that every citizen should have, and it is something that we must cherish and protect.

      Moreover, the second amendment has played a crucial role in defending our country against foreign threats. Throughout our history, our citizens have used their firearms to defend our country against foreign invaders and to protect their communities from criminals. The second amendment ensures that we have the means to protect ourselves and our communities against any threat.

      Furthermore, the second amendment is not about violence. It is about self-defense and protecting our communities. The vast majority of gun owners in this country are law-abiding citizens who use their firearms responsibly. The second amendment protects their right to do so and ensures that they can defend themselves and their families in times of danger.

      Finally, the idea that the second amendment is evil is misguided. It is not the second amendment that is evil, but rather the actions of a small minority of individuals who use firearms to commit heinous acts of violence. It is important to remember that these individuals are the exception, not the rule. The vast majority of gun owners are responsible and law-abiding citizens who use their firearms for self-defense and protection.

      In conclusion, the second amendment is not evil. It is a fundamental aspect of our democracy and a cornerstone of our individual liberty. It ensures that citizens have the means to protect themselves against tyranny, defend their communities against threats, and safeguard their individual rights. Instead of demonizing the second amendment, we should work to promote responsible gun ownership and protect the rights of law-abiding citizens.

    2. Where do AR-15s and weapons of war (not self-defense) fit in your picture? If gun owners are irresponsible, what happens thenaccording to the 2nd Amendment? Is there some way to achieve its goals without all those excess guns, accidental shooting of and by kids, and suicides? Can you really say it is working?

    3. In the words of Claudette Colbert, "The world keeps spinning, and the ages keep turning up, but the color of some things never change." One of those things is the debate over gun control. To some, the Second Amendment is sacred, a God-given right that must be protected at all costs. To others, it is an outdated relic of a bygone era, a dangerous loophole in our society that allows for violence and chaos.

      But where do AR-15s and other weapons of war fit into this picture? Are they really necessary for self-defense, or are they just a tool for violence and destruction? And what about the millions of guns that are owned by irresponsible gun owners, leading to accidental shootings and suicides?

      To answer these questions, we must first understand the true meaning of the Second Amendment. It was written at a time when the newly formed United States was still a fledgling nation, and the threat of invasion and tyranny was very real. The Founding Fathers wanted to ensure that the people had the right to defend themselves against any threat, foreign or domestic.

      But times have changed, and the threat to our nation is no longer from foreign invaders or tyrannical governments. It is from within, from those who use guns to commit acts of violence and terrorize our communities. And while the Second Amendment may guarantee the right to bear arms, it does not guarantee the right to own weapons of war or to use them for anything other than self-defense.

      The argument that AR-15s and other weapons of war are necessary for self-defense is simply not true. These guns were designed for one purpose: to kill as many people as possible in a short amount of time. They are not suitable for hunting, and they are not necessary for protecting one's home. In fact, studies have shown that owning a gun actually increases the risk of violence in the home.

      So what happens when gun owners are irresponsible? What happens when children are accidentally shot, or when guns fall into the hands of criminals or those with mental illness? The consequences are devastating, and they are all too real. Every year, thousands of people die from gun violence in this country, and the vast majority of those deaths could have been prevented if we had sensible gun laws in place.

      But the gun lobby will tell you that any attempt to regulate guns is an attack on the Second Amendment. They will tell you that the government is coming to take away your guns, and that you must fight to protect your rights. This is simply not true. The Second Amendment can coexist with sensible gun laws that protect the safety and well-being of all Americans.

      So what can we do to achieve the goals of the Second Amendment without all of the excess guns and violence? We can start by implementing universal background checks, which would help to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and those with mental illness. We can also ban weapons of war, such as the AR-15, which have no place in our communities. And we can invest in mental health resources and programs to help those who are struggling with mental illness before they turn to violence.

      The Second Amendment is not an excuse to own weapons of war or to use guns for anything other than self-defense. We must recognize that the world has changed since the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution, and that our laws must change with it. We can protect the right to bear arms while also protecting the safety and well-being of all Americans. It is time for us to take action to end the senseless violence and protect the future of our nation.

    4. 9:28 Oh, honey, don't even get me started on this gun control nonsense. The Second Amendment is there for a reason, and it's not just for show. We need our guns to protect ourselves and our families, plain and simple.

      Now, I know some of you are thinking, "But Joan, what about all those mass shootings and accidental deaths?" Well, let me tell you something. Those tragedies are caused by people, not guns. It's the people who are responsible for the violence, not the weapons they use. Guns don't just magically shoot themselves, you know.

      And what's with all this talk about "weapons of war"? Last time I checked, we're not at war on American soil. Those guns are just as important for self-defense as any other weapon. Plus, they're fun to shoot! Have you ever been to a shooting range? It's a blast!

      And let's not forget about the millions of responsible gun owners out there. They use their firearms for hunting, sport shooting, and self-defense. They know how to handle their guns safely and responsibly, and they would never dream of using them to hurt anyone.

      But no, the gun control crowd wants to take away our rights and our guns. They want to make it impossible for law-abiding citizens to protect themselves and their families. It's ridiculous!

      And don't even get me started on the government trying to regulate our guns. Who do they think they are, telling us what we can and can't own? We have a right to bear arms, and they can't take that away from us.

      Gun control is a joke. We need our guns to protect ourselves and our families, and the Second Amendment guarantees that right. The government has no right to take away our guns or tell us what we can and can't own. So let's all go out to the shooting range and have some fun! Bang, bang, baby!

    5. Good luck shooting police officers (i.e. fighting the tyranny of the government) with a knife.

  8. It would be typical of Somerby to ignore the details of the two shooting situations and assume that the one in which someone died is the more important and should get the most coverage compared to the one in which someone was injured. He does tend to be frequently oblivious of context. That would be similar to the way he pulls a quote because it has the word "silence" in it, regardless of what the rest of the sentence says, the larger poem it appeared in, the larger meaning of the author, and so on. And then Somerby takes that a step further and berates the media for making a different choice, one based on the factors most other people recognize quickly.

    It also makes no sense to be comparing the relative importance of two tragedies. Both shouldn't have happened.

  9. GOP should support statehood for DC and PR.

  10. Somerby seems to think that if there is ongoing coverage of racially motivated crimes against black people, that is going to cause fewer young black people to vote for Biden. I don't see the logic of that at all. Historically, black people have fought to stop the labeling of black criminals by newspapers, because it created the perception that black people were all criminals. Now, the increased attention given by the media to crimes AGAINST black people has resulted in action to address such problems, including a decrease in police killings of unarmed black people. Why would young black voters (who have supported BLM themselves) find that a reason to change their voting preferences? That makes no sense.

    Somerby needs to explain this rationale. Otherwise it just sounds like the trolls who pop in occasionally to tell us that hispanics are turning into Republicans and other nonsense.

    1. 4:24,
      Are you suggesting Somerby is repeating right-wing nonsense memes? Surely you jest. LOL.