Scant Coverage of a “Lesser” Oakland Murder

Goin’ dinosaur on y’all with a case that shows why the demise of newspapers is bad for local news and residents.

The San Francisco Chronicle has now run its second “murder haiku,” my name for its three paragraph blurbs about non-sexy murders in Oakland, about the Dimond District slaying of Antoine Crossland, a 23-year-old Castro Valley resident. The shooting death occurred a few weeks ago less than a mile down the hill from me, late at night next to a library in what is a bustling day-time commercial district. This is not in an area known for violence, so it should generate a tad more coverage than murders in other parts of our city.

The news today is that there are a couple photos of people wanted for questioning in connection with the case. Still, it’s been more than three weeks since the murder and the combined coverage by the Chronicle and Oakland Tribune, in two articles each, tops out at about 10 column-inches.

In the mezosoic-era, competing newspapers and their reporters would be checking down at the courthouse for records of Mr. Crossland or going out to find his relatives. Print reporters would have been trying to provide some context and answer the big question: Was Crossland targeted or was he just in the wrong place at the wrong time? They would have been canvassing for witnesses or getting reaction from nearby residents and merchants. (I was one of those dinosaurs, roaming the Florida cesspools, and I would be damned if I was going to let the Bradenton Herald or Tampa Tribune scoop me on story on my own turf. Is there still any pride left in being a good police reporter? I don’t know. )

Bloggers in big urban areas do a fine job when the cases and stories get big enough, say the Oscar Grant shooting, Chauncey Bailey’s murder or the horrendous slayings of four Oakland Police officers. But for lesser crimes, there is not exactly a rush to fill the reporting void. Staffs have been slashed. Heck, if I wasn’t trying to grind out a living today, this blogger would go pound the pavement to try to fill in the blanks on Mr. Crossland’s downfall. I still might….

Henry Lee of The Chronicle and Harry Harris of The Tribune are both good, experienced reporters. However, with the layoffs and shrinking staffs, I’m sure these two hardly have the time for more than churning out more murder haiku or just doing a lot of their reporting over the phone.

Get used to it. We will all have to hunt a bit more to find aggressive police and crime reporting.