Yet Another Media Blackout


Yesterday I linked to Jonathan Cohn’s “The Hell of American Day Care,” whose title pretty much speaks for itself. However, I didn’t mention the framing device for his piece: a young mother named Kenya Mire, who was desperate to find day care for her daughter Kendyll and eventually put her in the hands of a woman named Jessica Tata. It turned out that Tata had a history of negligence, and one day left the children at her day care center alone while she went shopping. A pan of oil on a hot stove caught fire while she was gone, and the resulting blaze killed Kendyll and three other toddlers. It’s a horrific story about the death of four small children and a neligent bureaucracy that allowed it to happen.

Today, Dylan Matthews interviewed Cohn about his story:

DM: How did you hear about the Tata case? How did you find Kenya Mire?

JC: I remember hearing about it when it happened. The topic was on my mind, so I followed it closely — along with some other stories like it from around the country. I was actually surprised the Houston story got so little national coverage. The local television stations were all over it. Two reporters from the Houston Chronicle did a terrific reconstruction of the day. But almost nobody outside of Texas seemed to notice.

As I learned later, the lack of national coverage was typical.

Very typical, I imagine. There was no partisan axe to grind, so nobody at the national level ever wrote a column about how the mainstream media was ignoring this grisly and obviously important case. Like a thousand other similar stories, it was a local story that stayed local. After all, poor kids get the shaft in dozens of different ways from a country that doesn’t care enough to fund decent services for them. Where’s the news value in that?

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

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Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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