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Too Much on Taylor?

A pointed debate has erupted among our Readers Who Comment as they discuss a Letter to the Editor that attacked as excessive the ink devoted by the Post to the shooting death of Redskins star Sean Taylor. The letter, published Thursday and signed by Kathryn Tatko and Jack Richards of Alexandria, concludes by asking, "How dare you give such lavish coverage to a football player at the expense of all those military heroes serving or who have died serving in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Several of those who commented find that argument specious at best. A few agree. But many defend the coverage, pointing to the popularity of the Redskins in the Washington area, for which the Post is, after all, the hometown newspaper. Others raise a question that news organizations have wrestled with forever -- how much should they cover celebrity figures, particularly when violence or in this case tragic death are involved? Since the Taylor story broke, it has generated an enormous online audience for the Post, larger than Iraq, larger than Mideast peace talks, larger than presidential politics. So the question is also one about who we are and what we care about. In this case it is also about race, as Eugene Robinson discusses so eloquently in his column today.

Perhaps the debate is best summarized in this exchange between Delrayer1 and JKJ88.
Delrayer1 said, "I am appalled at the lack of sensitivity and understanding of the death of Sean Taylor. We all feel the pain in our hearts for our troops dying but this is completely different... The Post cannot publish enough about Number 21 for me."

And JKJ88 said, "Insensitive?? One could also very easily perceive the vast amount of publicity surrounding this young man's passing as being insensitive as well. It just depends on one's perspective." In a separate posting, JKJ88 said, "...while the Post was certainly correct to cover the story, it does accurately reflect our nation's dysfunctional fixation with sports/entertainment figures..."

CHICO13 wrote, "I'm part of the general public and I care as much about our boys overseas as Sean Taylor getting murdered senselessly. This letter is all bout who's agenda is more important. Tatko and Richards fail to realize they both are. Young black males are in a war of their own here at home."

TDewey said, "They can't be serious. The Post has covered this "war" including the unnecessary loss of life and causalities, especially those with a local connection, in great detail. But why shouldn't they. The Post was a key influential media outlet that led the cheers to bring about this debacle..."

kris2 wrote, "The Iraq war, and the solidiers, injured, dead, and alive, are in the Washington Post on a daily basis. We need to support them... [Taylor] was a sports hero to many; he was murdered... I think it was a slap in the face to both our heroes fighting an illegal war, and to Sean Taylor and his family to compare the two. Way different tragedys."

paulaschulman noted that "this is a redskins town, and a redskin died. i'm not a football fan at all--i know very little about the sport--but i don't think the coverage was over-the-top, nor do i think that the coverage negates the importance of everything else going on in the world."

But babybear12 said "The Taylor coverage was almost embarrassing... If those same people who mourn him would turn that energy to caring about poor intercity kids gunned down daily, then maybe they could do some good...The Post does us no good by the constant printing of stories on this."

We'll close with tartanskin, who wrote "... there have been zillions of column inches given over to reporting on the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts and the tragedies that occur there on a daily basis... To suggest that the Sean Taylor tragedy should not be given high-profile coverage is both childish and churlish. This is an important news story which tragically highlights a major problem in America today - people who have a complete disregard for human life being able to carry guns with no questions asked."

All comments on the letter about the Sean Taylor coverage are here.

By Doug Feaver  |  November 30, 2007; 9:25 AM ET
Categories:  Journalism  
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