Blood & Ink

January 16th, 2007 by Editor B

Monday’s Times-Picayune carried a story in the Metro section about a young man named Chivas Doyle. He just turned 24 last week. He was attending Delgado Community College. He was a practical joker. Everyone called him Tank because he was 7′ tall.

He was found dead in his FEMA trailer in the Upper Ninth Ward, shot in the back of the head.

The details of the story are heart-breaking, but also frustratingly few. For example, the article states that Tank was a “community activist” but doesn’t elaborate.

E.J. was ticked off about it yesterday. I held out some vague hope that there would be a bigger story about Tank in today’s paper. I was hoping against hope to see something on the front page. But no. Instead, the front page is dominated by this headline: “Disheartened by the disfigured city, many Katrina survivors are turning to plastic surgery as a pick-me-up.”

The coverage of this man’s story is simply inadequate. With all respect due the grieving family, New Orleanians deserve to know more about how he lived and what we’ve lost. Instead, we get face-lifts and tummy tucks.

One of the ideas put forward by the organizers of last week’s march on City Hall was to “Recognize the Tragedy of Each Victim.”

Each violent death is an individual and immeasurably tragic loss. We must treat each victim with the respect due to each valued member of our community, not as a number.

What we can do:

* Put pressure on the press to follow the stories of individual victims, name victims whenever possible, and treat each victim as a valued individual.

What our leaders can do:

* Victims of violent crime (except in cases where the victim wishes to remain unnamed) must be named publicly. We are calling for a public information board at City Hall that lists each murder victim in the city and tracks the progress on their case.

I’m contacting Bob Ussery, the reporter who wrote about Tank, to give him some encouragement that we need to have more coverage of this story. Read the article yourself. Bob’s contact info is at the end of the article, if you should be inclined to give him a call or drop him an e-mail. I realize editors call the shots at a newspaper, so maybe I’m barking up the wrong tree. But it’s a start.

8 Responses to “Blood & Ink”

  1. dsb nola Says:

    I just wrote Mr. Ussery an email encouraging him and the Times-Picayune to follow up on the story of Tank Johnston’s murder as well as all of the other murder victims’ stories. I actually have a lot of respect for the Times-Picayune and I expressed that to Mr. Ussery. I simply asked him and the Times-Picayune to partner with the citizenry to hold the N.O.P.D. and the Orleans Parish D.A.’s office to account. We’re engaged and these institutions need to recognize that fact. The Times-Picayune could play an essential role as we try to move forward.

  2. Sean Says:

    Thanks for pointing out that TP article. I’ve got one earlobe that sags lower than the other… But seriously, do we require permit to purchase a handgun or background check on secondary sales??? I don’t think so, but maybe I looked at old law. I’m not for restricting civil liberties, but just consider the requirements in operating and selling a vehicle.

  3. dangerblond Says:

    The mayor said something in one of his many press conferences about court-watchers, but I’m sure nothing has been done to implement that program. What about assigning each 2007 murder to a blogger or activist who would take on the responsibility of at least finding out what is going on with the investigation/prosecution? That way, we could figure out what the glitches are. Is there really no one coming forward to give information? If someone is arrested, how long before they get back on the streets? Does the person have a record of violent crime? Did the witnesses show up at court? Was there a conviction? Why or why not? What was the sentence?

    I’m appalled that Doyle’s murder is being given the page-25 treatment, but the main goal to me is to put the murderer away so he can’t kill anyone else.

  4. mominem Says:

    I think the court watcher thing would be great. If it gets to court.

    Does anyone know if the court dockets are on line anywhere? If they aren’t published I don’t know how you could track a single case.

  5. cord Says:

    I read the article about Tank as well…it contained a link to his Myspace page: myspace.com/9thwardwordman

  6. Karen Says:

    I felt pretty gob smacked by the face lift story.

    What where they thinking when they wrote that story?

    I plan on asking the TP what they are going to do to address our Crime Problem. We were told at out Nonpak meeting tonight that the statistics are avaliable to the TP.
    Perhaps we should force the issue with them a bit

  7. Steve Says:

    As a former newpaper reporter from the New Orleans area, I thought the story provided a fair amount of detail on Tank and his life. In the 90s, another era when the citizenry marched on City Hall to protest out of control crime, murders and mysterious deaths would often warrant little more than a paragraph or two in the Metro section.

  8. E.J. Says:

    I plan to write a letter to the T-P also, and kudos to you for spreading the word and encouraging folks to write the author and the paper. Steve makes a good point; there was a fair amount of detail. The bigger issue is the placement and overall amount of coverage of his murder.

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