Columbia Journalism Review

Missing the Story

Five years ago, I came across an article in The New York Times about a spate of robberies in the Bronx. It was the kind of story that has been a staple in the metro sections of newspapers since there have been metro sections in newspapers, focusing on the reaction of people living in the neighborhood where robberies took place. But there was a notable wrinkle: Confronted by armed antagonists, the article sighed, many people refused to surrender their belongings, even when they had only a few dollars on them. The article tsk-tsked at community members for tempting fate. A criminologist offered a suggestion that it was “nuts for the victim to refuse.” A few dollars, readers were told, are not worth one’s life.

The article stuck with me in part because I’d once lived nearby that area and understood the realities

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