Why the killing of two Highland Park teenagers is not news worth following

The shooting deaths of two Highland Park teenagers last month left junior high school principal John Samaniego, whose campus is located near the shooting, eager to get more news about what happened. But, with the exception of a brief burst of coverage on the Friday afternoon and evening of the killings, Samaniego waited in vain for more news to appear. “That’s what kind of bothered me,” Samaniego said a few days after the killings.

Many others have also been bothered and puzzled by the lack of mainstream news coverage in the aftermath of the March 13 shootings, which claimed the lives of Carlos Hernandez, 15, and Alejandro Garcia, 16 as they walked on Figueroa Street near the Arroyo Seco Library. Neither teen was in a gang but they are believed to have been challenged and shot by suspected gang members, police said. The blogger known as Chimatli on LA Eastside wrote:

“I’ve been told that race and class have nothing to do with lack of coverage but I really doubt it. The news media probably saw “Highland Park” and “gang related” and decided to cover more important topics like the Octo-Mom. Regardless of what these young teens were or were not involved with, nobody deserves to die this way.”

The publisher of the 90042 blog also vented about the media’s silence:

“This story wasn’t even important enough to get into the newspapers, just a mention on the Los Angeles Times’ LA Now Blog. Too often gang violence gets ignored because its, well, gang violence. (It doesn’t involve you, its between them, so let’s just close the door and hope they all kill each other off.)”

The Eastsider approached a few news outlets – ABC7, CBS2 & KCAL, Eastern Group Publications, KNBC and the LA Times- about a week ago to find out how they covered the event and to respond to criticism about the lack of coverage. I’m still waiting for the Times , which covered the shooting with a single blog post, to respond. But here’s what the others have to say:


“Eyewitness News did cover the incident as a breaking news story from our helicopter at 5pm and 6 pm on March 13, 2009,” said News Director Cheryl Fair in a statement. “Our initial information seemed to suggest these might be innocent victims caught in the crossfire. Police sources later told our reporter on the scene that the shooting was the result of gang on gang violence and the victims were also gang members. We do many stories throughout the year on the impact of gang violence on various neighborhoods in our area, but we do not always follow up on each individual gang -vs-gang violent incident. We understand that these victims are someone’s friend or family member and feel for their loved ones. We try our best, but with a very large area to cover we sometimes make coverage decisions that may not satisfy everyone.”


Mike Nelson, spokesman for both stations, did not have information readily available on how they covered the shooting on the day of the incident or if they did any follow up stories.

“It’s unfortunate that there are so many acts of violence that occur today,” Nelson said. “We commit a lot of resources to cover these stories .. across five counties in our viewing area. Frankly, there are times when it’s impossible for any one news organization to report every story that deserves coverage.”


“We did cover this story in at least two newscasts,” said Assistant News Director Keith Esparros in an email. “We had both aerial and ground coverage of the story. KNBC has dedicated a lot of time and resources to the coverage of gangs and gang violence in our city. We have looked at the crimes, the issues behind the gang problems, the efforts to eradicate gang violence, the success stories, and unfortunately, the tragedies gangs often leave in their wake.

In a city as large as Los Angeles, it is sadly impossible to spend as much time and resources as we’d like to following up important stories. We also have to be careful that we don’t report only negative news from a certain neighborhood. We make an effort to make sure our coverage is inclusive of all of our viewing area, reporting both the good and bad information that is generated there.

If you’re aware of any new developments in this story, please pass them along. We’d be very interested.”

Northeast Sun/Eastern Group Publications

The Northeast Sun has provided the most coverage of the shooting, which is not too surprising since it only took place only blocks away from the paper. The staff at the weekly newspaper heard the police and media helicopters hovering overhead and quickly got three people to shooting, said Managing Editor Gloria Alvarez. The paper did a story about the shooting and how neighborhood schools reacted to the violence. However, because of technical problems, the staff could not immediately post a story on the EGP website and readers had to wait until the Wednesday after the shooting to get the details. Alvarez said she and other media outlets have to balance the need to keep residents informed about crime and violence without glorifying gangs.

“The truth of the matter is that a lot of the mainstream media … don’t’ report gang-on-gang activity,” Alvarez said. “ I think that’s why a lot of the mainstream media walked away … we don’t want to make heroes of these guys.”

Bottom photo from 90042

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