Social Organization of Newsgathering - Larry Craig Department

September 2, 2007
Posted by Jay Livingston

Larry Craig was arrested in June, but the story didn’t hit the news until late August. A US Senator arrested for soliciting homosexual acts in a public restroom – not the sort of thing that would normally go unnoticed.

Mark Kleiman
has a link to the Minnesota newspaper that should have caught this one. The Star Tribune ran an article explaining how it missed the arrest.
The story, worth reading in its entirety, gives an idea of how crime news is normally reported and why normal procedures didn't work this time. The important factors were:
  • the place – the crime desk doesn’t expect much to happen at the airport
  • the commonplace – the name Larry Craig is so ordinary that it didnt ring a bell with the people who monitor the police blotter
  • structure of police reports – the arrestee’s occupation doesn’t appear until page 3
  • other news – Craig’s guilty plea occurred just after the bridge collapse in Minneapolis, which still commanded most of the media’s attention.

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