Murder At The Ivies

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Jack Shafer notes the discrepancies:

The New York Times, one of several Ivy League house organs, has already published five articles about Le's disappearance and murder and the apprehension of suspect Raymond Clark III. The Boston Globe has published at least six stories about the case, and the Washington Post has run at least three briefs from the Associated Press. The Times of London, published five time zones away, can't seem to sate its appetite for Annie Le news. Even the proletarian New York tabloids--the Post and the Daily News--have gone ape for the story.

And the logic:

The elite press and the tabloid press (in which I include cable populists such as Greta Van Susteren) approach Ivy murder from different angles.* Members of the elite press identify with Harvard and Yale--even if they didn't go there. They may work for someone who went, or wish they'd gone, or hope their children go. The same applies to many Times readers, pre-selling the story on both the supply and demand sides. The murder-happy tabloid press, on the other hand, has always taken special joy in showcasing the pain of the high-and-mighty.

The gap between elite and tabloid narrows every time bad things happen to privileged people. The difference is that tabloids never stop to justify or explain their prurient interest. If this how-the-mighty-fall stuff is your sort of story--and I'm thinking it is, since you've read to the end of this piece--don't bother with the Times. The emotional ride you seek is hawking tickets right now at the Daily News and Post.

Yeah basically. But there's also the "I can't believe this happened at Harvard" effect which Shafer notes. There's a cheap counterintuitivity that I think editors go for. And maybe consumers, also.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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