Eyes Wide Shut

Rating Death's Value in the Age of Celebrity Hype

In what could indulgently be termed my naïveté, I'd imagined that NY 1, at least, would interrupt blanket coverage of Coast Guard cutters ferrying assorted Kennedys, Smiths, and Shrivers to and from Woods Hole (an image right up there with the Yule log for soporific effect). I kept expecting someone to mention the fact that there'd been an incredibly brutal killing in the middle of the city, in the jewel of our urban parks system, in a place about the size of Monaco— one that, if you believe Rudy Giuliani, is just as safe.

It didn't happen. Nobody broke in with a report. Half a day elapsed before there was any television coverage of Fuchs's murder. And even then the stories— which you might imagine would evoke the shame of Kitty Genovese (what kind of place do we inhabit where your reaction to hearing bloodcurdling cries is to pull the window shut?), or the fact that three of the more brutal park attacks in recent memory took place within a five-minute radius of one another— chose to focus on the fact that murder statistics have dropped 75 percent over the past six years.

The Central Park Murder of Susan Fuchs (left), and the John Kennedy Media Spectacle (right)
photos: Michael Sofronski (left); Meg Handler (right)
The Central Park Murder of Susan Fuchs (left), and the John Kennedy Media Spectacle (right)

Some people matter. Others do not. No need to stop the presses for that bit of news. But a week into the ratings-and-circulation carnival attending the deaths of three people few had met, and that most were supposed to have "loved," a nobody with a history of mental illness and a family that not many of us will ever encounter had her skull smashed in the middle of Manhattan. It's too much to suggest that nobody cared. But it does say something about the irremediable grotesquerie of a 24-hour news cycle that television held off the Fuchs murder for six hours in favor of a celebrity ash dump, while the dailies played it later, inside and small.

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