Not all murders are equal. Or is it that not all murder victims are equal?
Three men were shot and killed in Essex County over the weekend. Two in Newark. One in Millburn, at the Short Hills Mall.
The first to die was Christopher Johnson, 46. He was found lying in the courtyard of a Broad Street building at about 8 pm Saturday night. Police were called in response to calls about shots fired.
NJ.COM, the news website that includes The Star-Ledger of Newark, published six paragraphs, 185 words, about Johnson’s death. It provided no details about his life. Who he was, who his survivors were, where he might have worked. Nothing. NJ.COM, however, noted that, “The victim did not live in the building where he was found shot, according to Thomas Fennelly, chief assistant prosecutor with the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office. He could not say why the victim was there, or what motivated the shooting.”
The site ran, not a picture of the victim, but a 2011 picture that included Cory Booker, no longer Newark’s mayor.
The second victim was an unidentified man who was shot to death Sunday night, also about 8 pm, at the intersection of Elizabeth Avenue and Clinton Avenue. That shooting death, the 98th in Newark this year, was also described in a six-paragraph story on NJ.COM. It also ran 185 words and carried a picture of the acting Essex County prosecutor. The story mentioned nothing about the victim’s age, employment, residence, survivors, or even much about the circumstances of his death. No motive was offered.
One paragraph did mention the third person killed over the weekend. The Hoboken man who was shot and killed by someone who stole his car from one of the parking decks at the swank Short Hills Mall in Millburn. That shooting occurred within two hours of the shooting in Newark.
By Monday night, NJ.COM had published eight stories amounting to nearly 5,000 words about the killing in the mall. The first was published Sunday night. One update followed within hours, reporting the shooting victim had died. A second provided the name of the victim, Dustin Friedland, and more details.
Five more stories followed. The main news story Monday reported the victim had struggled with his attackers. It ran with four other stories, often called “sidebars.” One was a profile concentrating on the victim’s running. The second quoted neighbors about how nice a guy he was. A third described how Hoboken police were blocking access to the victim’s apartment. The last really had little to do with Friedland but reported on precautions at the Newport Mall in Jersey City. The stories carried pictures of Friedland, a neighbor, his home, the scene of the shooting.
NJ.COM was not alone. Entering “Dustin Friedland” and “Short Hills Mall” in Google yielded 41,400 results only 24 hours after the shooting occurred. Christopher Johnson’s shooting death, seven. The shooting of the unidentified man, one. There was no follow-up to the stories of the men killed in Newark. By anyone.