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By Jeremy Schiffres, Daily and Sunday Freeman, Kingston, N.Y.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Time passes

In October 1994, the week after Susan Smith strapped her two young sons — 3-year-old Michael and 14-month-old Alexander — into the back seat of her car and let the vehicle roll into John D. Long Lake in South Carolina, drowning both children, Time magazine made the tragedy its cover story (left), with the headline "How Could She Do It?"

There they were for all to see, on the cover of one of the nation's most widely read publications: those two sweet, cherubic, adorable children; the offspring of married parents; the products of a middle-class background. And white.

This past Monday, six days after Lashanda Armstrong drowned herself and three of her children by driving her van into the Hudson River in Newburgh, N.Y., not only did Time opt to keep the heinous act off its cover, it skipped the story altogether. There was no mention anywhere in the magazine's 70 pages (not even on its one-page roundup of national news) of Armstrong and the three children she murdered: 5-year-old Landen Pierre, 2-year-old Lance Pierre and 11-month-old Lainaina Pierre; and no pictures of the three children — sweet, cherubic and adorable; the offspring of separated parents; the products of a slum. And black.

Imbalanced news coverage based on race? You make the call. But the message I take away from this is that Time found it unthinkable that a middle-class white woman would kill her children, but was unsurprised — to the point of ignoring the story — that a low-income black woman would do the same.

But Time is, after all, the same publication that famously darkened the police mug shot of O.J. Simpson, also in 1994, making the black football star-turned-murder suspect look more sinister on its cover. (Note the obvious difference between the simultaneous Newsweek and Time covers at right.) So the magazine's refusal to even acknowledge the terrible fate that befell Landen, Lance and Lainaina Pierre seems par for the course.

Incidentally, the cover story on this past Monday's Time was a religion feature called "What If There Is No Hell?" Lashanda Armstrong better hope so. Because if there is a hell, it's my guess that she's either there or on her way.

And if there's a heaven, it's my hope that Armstrong's children — whose only mistake in life was getting into their mother's van eight days ago — find eternal peace there.



Blogger Karen said...

Jeremy, I agree with you. Good Article. I am glad you spoke out about this. Thank you for being so honest and bringing this message for the public to read.

April 22, 2011 at 3:09 PM 
Blogger Jeremy Blaber said...

Correct, I agree. Nice article, it's sad.

April 24, 2011 at 11:21 PM 

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