The media highlights certain crime stories more than other similar stories

Who is Ralph Yarl? If you’ve been paying close attention to the news you may recall that on April 13 a 16-year-old named Ralph Yarl accidentally went to the wrong house to pick up his younger brothers. Andrew Lester, the elderly man who owned that house, pulled out a handgun and shot Yarl through the door, striking him in the head. Fortunately, Yarl survived but his story became major national news.


Two days later, on April 15, a young woman named Kaylin Gillis was a passenger in a car in rural New York that accidentally turned up the wrong driveway. She was shot and killed by homeowner Kevin Monahan.

Then on April 18 in North Carolina, some children chased a basketball into a man’s yard. In response, 24-year-old Robert Louis Singletary came out shooting at everyone. A six-year-old girl named Kinsley White was hit in the face with a bullet fragment and her father was shot in the back while trying to get her back inside. Fortunately, he survived.

All three of these stories are shocking and all three of them made news. But only one of these stories received major national attention from outlets like CNN, the NY Times and the Washington Post. If you didn’t know anything more about these three stories beyond what I told you in the descriptions above you might not be able to guess which one got the most attention. You might guess the shooting of Kaylin Gillis since she was actually killed while the other victims were merely injured. Or you might guess the shooting of Kinsley White since shooting a 6-year-old seems even more shocking than shooting a 16-year-old.

But you’d be wrong because there’s one more factor I haven’t mentioned in the descriptions above. Ralph Yarl is black and Andrew Lester is white. The shooting of Kaylin Gillis, in which both the victim and the shooter were white, got far less attention. The shooting of Kinsley White in which she was white and shooter Robert Louis Singletary was black also received far less attention. Ralph Yarl by contrast got a call from President Biden.


I want to be clear here for those who don’t know where I’m coming from that the shooting of Ralph Yarl looks indefensible to me. I’m very glad he wasn’t hurt more seriously than he was and I’m not upset his case got lots of attention and that people around him are letting him know this was not his fault. All of that seems perfectly right to me. And even so I imagine he’s going to be dealing with the memories of this for a long time.

What does bother me is that other equally egregious (or arguably worse) crimes haven’t received the same attention from the media. There’s something wrong with that.

Today, I decided to look at the Google Trends data for these stories to help quantify the amount of coverage they received. Searching the names of the three victims (in quotes) you get this result. Ralph Yarl is in blue, Kaylin Gillis is in yellow and Kinsley White is in red.

If you search instead for the names of the three shooters (Andrew Lester in blue, Kevin Monahan in yellow and Robert Louis Singletary in red) you get basically the same result.


As I pointed out two weeks ago, it wasn’t just the quantity of coverage of the Yarl shooting that was different it was also the quality of the coverage that was distinctly different. Stories about the Yarl shooting often opened with the race of the victim and the shooter. It was almost always in the headline or the first paragraph of stories like this one from the Post.

An 84-year-old White Kansas City man was charged with two felonies after opening fire on a Black teenager who rang his doorbell after showing up to the wrong home to pick up his siblings.

By comparison, here’s how the Post covered the shooting of Kinsley White.

The man who police say shot a 6-year-old girl and her father this week in North Carolina, wounding the girl in the face and causing her father to be hospitalized, has been arrested, authorities said Thursday.

The words “white” and “black” only appear once in that story. Here they are:

Last week, Ralph Yarl, a Black 16-year-old, was shot and injured in Kansas City, Mo., when he went to the wrong house to pick up his siblings. Andrew D. Lester, an 84-year-old White man, was charged.

My own conclusion about all of this is that the media has been trained to elevate and racialize certain crime stories while not giving the same attention or treatment to other comparable stories. Call it the BLM effect, but certain stories fit a pre-made narrative about race which the media has decided to give disproportionate attention to, while other stories get just baseline coverage.


The problem of course is that this kind of disproportionate coverage can mislead people about just how often crimes like this happen. We’ve already seen evidence of this from that Skeptic Research Center report on police shootings. David wrote about an update to this report recently. The gist is that most people, especially those on the left, vastly overestimate the number of unarmed black men killed by police in a given year. The correct answer to the question was 11 which means the blue bar “about 10” is the only answer that is close to reality. But as you can see, people on the left were more likely to guess “about 1,000.”

None of the people in any of these stories deserved to be shot and all three of the stories deserved coverage. But one of these stories got far more media attention than the others and I don’t think that was a coincidence. If the media wants to say Ralph Yarl’s name that’s fine with me but it should say Kinsley White’s name too.


“She woke up last night and said, ‘Mommy, I had a bad dream. That man, that man, he was in my room, just me and that man, Mommy,'” Hilderbrand said. “I just got her to where she wasn’t scared of the dark. She’s scared of the dark again.”

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