Sad story, good reporting

baltimoresun logoIt’s not often that ordinary crime reporting intersects with mainstream reporting of LGBT concerns — unless the story is about a hate crime.

Last week, The Sun reported the murders of two Baltimore women.  Their decomposing bodies were found in their apartment, and several days later a man was arrested in their deaths.

Sadly, murder is not news in Charm City.  With a declining, but still large, murder rate, Baltimore is one of the most violent cities in the country.  But the way in which this story was reported is remarkable, and I must give credit to crime-beat reporters, Peter Hermann and Brent Jones.  Here’s a snippet from the second story, written by Hermann:

Two women found dead in their Northeast Baltimore house Wednesday evening were killed days before the couple had planned to move and shortly after they had argued with a stripper they had taken in and later evicted, the property manager and neighbors said Thursday. 

The couple, who recently married in Boston, had not been seen since Saturday.

One simple, straightforward phrase both solidifies the murder victims’ relationship and adds dimension to the story. Instead of avoiding the subject, Hermann quietly interjects this relevant detail, just as any reporter would do had the murdered couple been straight.  That’s despite the fact that the couple’s marriage was not legally recognized in Baltimore or Maryland, a technicality that might have convinced another reporter to avoid describing their relationship.

The couple’s marriage is relevant because it describes who they were. There is no mention of a hate crime, and their relationship or sexual orientation doesn’t appear to be a factor in their deaths.  Today, Jones reported that Mark K. Floyd had been arrested in their murder.  

Police said the women were robbed of several items, including televisions, jewelry and a laptop computer. Floyd pawned the computer June 9, linking him to the crime, according to police.

Steed and Royster had known Floyd for months, police said, and were so afraid of him that they had banned him from their home. Detectives interviewed Floyd on Monday night and he admitted to being alone with the women June 6, but he denied stealing any property, according to police.

Steed and Royster were recently married in Boston.

Again, Jones reminds readers of the victims’ relationship — a standard approach from Journalism 101.  So, in the midst of a sad report of a horrific crime, this couple was honored.  There are no quotation marks around the word marriage.  There is no qualification of their relationship.  And neither Hermann nor Jones was distracted by our country’s raging same-sex-marriage debate.  They reported the facts, which is all that is necessary in a story like this one.  

Meanwhile, reports that ran on the Web sites of local television stations, WBAL and WMAR, neglected to mention the women’s relationship.

I, for one, appreciate the quiet recognition, even in a tragic story.

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