AP Responds to ‘Hit-Us-Over-the-Head Bluntness’

As news comes of “yet another horrific mass shooting by yet another disaffected man armed with ammo and a deep hatred of women“–this time “killing three women and injuring nine more” at a Pennsylvania health club–Jennifer Pozner (Women In Media & News, 8/5/09) notices that “the gunman’s stated intention to target only women is eerily similar to the Montreal Massacre of 1989, in which a man opened fire on students after screaming: ‘You’re women, you’re going to be engineers. You’re all a bunch of feminists. I hate feminists'”:

Perhaps it takes this level of hit-us-over-the-head bluntness for media to notice that a mass murder is also a hate crime, when the victims of that crime are solely women. In contrast to many other shootings in which similar motivations have gone unreported over the past two decades, the Associated Press (and several other news outlets picking up [their] story) have chosen to discuss the extremely relevant role of misogyny as the root cause of the bloody tragedy in Collier County.

According to the Editor & Publisher blog, [Pennsylvania shooter George] Sodiniâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢s website also contained slams against “the liberal media,” Obama, the election of “The Black Man,” and jokes about black men and white women. E&P notes that the AP and other outlets have omitted these details. Had Sodini aimed his guns specifically and only at people of color, ignoring information about his bigotry would not only be racist, it would also deprive the public of a full understanding of the nature of his crime. But while his racist webpages certainly add a fuller picture to this disturbed killer’s mindset, in this case the AP discussed the part of the website most relevant to the crime: Sodini’s anger at being sexually rejected, his deep-seated resentment toward women and his stated plans to kill women.

Calling this “an important step forward in media understanding of and coverage of this sort of crime,” Pozner is glad that “finally, a gender-based hate crime is being reported (at least by the AP, at least for now) within the context of the killerâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢s actual anti-woman agenda.” However, “if the pressâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢s previous track record is any indicator, Sodiniâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢s misogyny could potentially fall out of the frame of follow-up reporting.”