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To the New York Times, Tubbs Jones’ death less newsworthy than where an elephant, or Tori Spelling’s mom, lives

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August 21st, 2008

By Guest Blogger Kristen Harbeson
kristen harbeson

Here is what the New York Times wants me to know about what is going on in my country on August 21, 2008:

1) Millionaires in Los Angeles are giving up mansions to live in condos. This story is accompanied by a picture of Candy Spelling, the smiling widow of Aaron Spelling and mother of actress Tori.

2) The scientists involved with pinning the anthrax investigation on Bruce Ivans three weeks ago continue to congratulate themselves on their sharp investigative skills.

3) Vermont wants to capitalize on their groundwater, and some people are worried about whether they will be able to flush their toilets.

4) An elephant in Dallas isn’t going to go anywhere.

If I didn’t know better, I would think it was a slow news day.

Fifteen stories below the “Distraught Elephant to Remain in Dallas” story, in the second to last article of the National News headlines, I could almost miss the fact that Stephanie Tubbs Jones, a fifth-term elected member of the United States House of Representatives, has died.

Tubbs Jones, a distinguished Congresswoman, the first African-American woman to represent Ohio in Congress, the first African-American woman to sit on the extremely powerful House Ways and Means Committee, a champion for the urban poor, for women’s rights and for social justice, a woman of grace, dignity, intelligence and power, died unexpectedly at the age of 58. This article about the death of a path-breaking elected official sits fifteen stories below “news” of an elephant whose situation will remain exactly the same.

I would have missed it completely if I hadn’t known that the newspaper had to report this sad development somewhere. Perhaps, though, the Times was just being ironic by placing the story about her death directly above the “Names of the Dead,” since Tubbs Jones was outspoken and unflinching in her opposition to the Iraq war from the very beginning, and voted against it consistently — one of the very few who did.

Not only did the Times not consider Tubbs Jones’ death to be as newsworthy as an elephant’s housing situation, the loss of this trailblazing American leader wasn’t deemed important enough to merit a breaking news alert in my e-mail… unlike Michael Phelps’ gold medals or Tiger Woods’ knee surgery, both of which the Times made sure to inform me about via Because clearly, Phelps’ medals and Woods’ knees have a profound effect on public policy for the urban poor and disenfranchised. (No, wait…)

It says something when ironic humor is the only possible alternate explanation for the placement for this story beyond inherent racism and/or sexism.

The New York Times should be ashamed of itself.

Guest Blogger Kristen Harbeson works in historic preservation - a cause championed by Stephanie Tubbs Jones. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

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