Sunday, February 05, 2006

Editorial: Does The New York Times editorial board not know that Coretta Scott King died or do they just not care?

Coretta Scott King died last week. We think most of you heard of her passing. We sure many of you noted it and mourned the loss. But are you aware that The New York Times, the paper of record, hasn't seen fit to write an editorial or op-ed on King's passing? Or that they haven't run one by someone outside that the paper that they commissioned to write on the topic?

Are you aware that in the same week that section of the paper ignored Coretta Scott King as a topic, Gail Collins penned a ten paragraph editorial to a friend of her's who died? It happened.
The friend was a playwright. It's a tragedy she passed away. But it's editorial news how? Because the woman was White or because she was Collins' friend or some comibination of the two?

Sunday's paper contains no editorial or op-ed on Coretta Scott King. This was the fifth day they passed on the chance to salute her.

Now King never wrote a Broadway play but she accomplished plenty. Let's start with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. That's where most people start. She was committed to the struggle for civil rights before she met him and he credited her with inspiring him.

As one of the widows of the sixties (MLK was assassinated), one would think she would receive at least an editorial. Jackie O received much more. Possibly because she was also a First Lady or possibly because she was White. But she got coverage.

Coretta Scott King conducted herself in the wake of her loss with dignity and grace as well. That doesn't rate a mention in The New York Times.

In addition to being there to inspire the dream, she was active in the civil rights struggle while Dr. King was alive and she kept his legacy alive after he was murdered. She also took leadership in the fight against poverty and in opposition to the war in Vietnam. She raised four children and inspired many more, of many, many generations.

In her later years, she could have rested. She could have taken easy positions. But she didn't. She refused to complacent in a world where so much still needed doing. She spoke out against the war in Iraq. She spoke out in favor of gay rights. She wasn't playing it safe.

This legendary woman played many roles in our national history. You'd think that would result in an editorial or op-ed addressing her life and accomplishments.

For all their attempts to pass themselves off as an enlightened paper, the truth is that The New York Times wasn't too crazy about MLK. Near the end, especially, they were pretty dismissive.
As he spoke about against the war, against racism in the north and against poverty, he seemed to make the paper of record (also known as the paper of the elites) uncomfortable. Given the chance, they'd kill him in print -- frequently.

So maybe this is some grudge they have against her late husband? Or maybe it's the fact that they still can't relate to anyone who's not white? Or maybe it's that their ideal woman is either a sex obsessed career woman (who either gets it a lot or whines constantly about not getting it) or she's the stay at home wife waiting by the door for when hubby comes home?

Coretta Scott King was a wife. She was a mother. She was an activist. She was a power house. And she was and is an American legend.

The paper reports her death on Wednesday. It is now Sunday and they've yet to write an editorial on her or run an op-ed column on her. (While decrying violence, Bob Herbert did mention her passing this week. He did not, however, write a column about her. That's been the only notice on the op-ed pages that Coretta Scott King died.)

We'll call it what we know it is: shameful. It's embarrassing that the paper of record, the paper that wants to be the nation's paper, can't write about Coretta Scott King. And as they continue to avoid the subject, the issue of racism also pops up.

Wendy Wasserstein was the playwright who died. Her death was noted on the front page. Her death was noted with an online slide show. Her death was noted in the daily e-mail The New York Times sends out. Her work was discussed in an article in the arts section. She was the topic of an editorial Gail Collins wrote.

No offense to Wasserstein but if Coretta Scott King is only worthy of reporting (front page) that she died and then reporting (and you know the Times loved this!) that there might be a 'squabble' over which church gets the funeral service, we really don't think a playwright deserves all that coverage. Not when King gets so little.

But possibly when you're friends with Gail Collins, you get more coverage? When your friends with Gail Collins, you're covered as though you were Ibsen or Shakespeare?

Wasserstein wrote amusing comedies. Nothing wrong with that. Nothing too historical about that either. Other playwrights have passed, some more noted than Wasserstein, and they've had to make do with an obit on the obit page.

There should be no reason to play compare and contrast with Wasserstein and King but the paper's invited every reader to do just that by ignoring the fact that Coretta Scott King passed.
It's disgraceful. Made all the more disgraceful when The New York Times can manage to find time to editorialize on the Oscar nominations. That's right, while silent on King, they editorialize on nominations. Not awards, mind you, nominations.

Their priorities are screwed up. The editorial board needs to take a hard look at themselves and ask themselves, "Just how White are we? Just how unaware are we?" Outside the offices of The New York Times and off their op-ed pages, Coretta Scott King's death is a tragedy that has touched people the same way that her work did. The New York Times needs to get off its White ass and pay tribute to an American legend.
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