So it turns out (via the New York Times) that Texas executes too many people for the state’s daily newspapers to cover them all.
The state has put 441 inmates to death since 1982, more than the next six states combined. That includes 334 since the start of 1997, a period in which Texas accounted for 41 percent of the national total.
Hey, Texas: You’re Number One!
Given the routine nature of the state-sponsored executions – along with a knee-buckling freefall in advertising revenues – cash-strapped newspapers all across Texas have abandoned comprehensive coverage of capital punishment, relying instead on one Michael Graczyk, who has witnessed more than 300 deaths in the past 25 years.
From the Times report:
An Associated Press reporter based in Houston, Mr. Graczyk covers death penalty cases in Texas, the state that uses capital punishment far more than any other, and since the 1980s, he has attended nearly every execution the state has carried out — he has lost track of the precise count.
What we have here is one man watching Texas exercise the government’s ultimate power. The Lone Star State has turned into the Lone Stare State.
(Your groan goes here.)
Newspapers sometimes use The A.P.’s reporting rather than their own — or they do not cover the executions at all. What was once a statewide story has become of strictly local interest.
Representative case study:
This year, the state has put to death five inmates in cases from Tarrant County, which includes Fort Worth. The [Fort Worth] Star-Telegram covered one, wrote about two other cases in the days before the executions, and on the remaining two did not publish any articles, either its own or The A.P.’s.
“It depends on whether the crime was particularly newsworthy,” [executive editor Jim] Witt said.
Geez, and all this time I thought it was the execution that was newsworthy.
I must be wrong.