The headline in today’s Daily News, “Jaywalker in critical condition after being struck by car in Midtown,” sets the tone for a particularly heinous example of tabloid victim-blaming.
According to the Post, the victim was Landal Hoilette, who was hit on W. 57th Street near 11th Avenue yesterday afternoon while on a lunch break from his job. But the Daily News does not identify Hoilette as a New Yorker, a pedestrian, or a senior. Instead, the story repeatedly refers to him as “the jaywalker.”
A 70-year-old man crossing a Manhattan street mid-block was hit by a car and critically wounded Wednesday afternoon, police said.
The victim was crossing 11th Ave. near W. 57th St. at 1:50 p.m. when he was hit by a four-door Nissan sedan that was heading south, cops said.
The jaywalker was rushed to New York Presbyterian Hospital, where he is listed in critical condition with head trauma, according to police.
“Jaywalker,” of course, is a term invented by the car lobby in the first half of the 20th century to apply to anyone who stood in the way of unfettered automobility — including children and the elderly. It’s a dehumanizing epithet that reflects an outdated mindset. It shifts blame away from motorists, who are mostly responsible for pedestrian-involved crashes, and it ignores the fact that, when you’re not in a car, following traffic rules can get you killed.
The tabloids did a decent job on the Kang Wong story, but they are generally terrible when it comes to day to day coverage of traffic crashes. Any mistake by the victim becomes the thrust of the story, while providing cover for the driver’s actions.
As is usually the case when the injured or dead can’t speak for themselves, the motorist’s version of events is the only account presented. How fast was the driver going? Was she distracted? How did she not see a 70-year-old man in the middle of the street? These crucial details are absent from the Daily News piece. The Post did a somewhat less horrible job, but offered zero information on the driver’s actions in a story headlined “CBS employee fighting for life after hit by car while jaywalking.”
The New York dailies should take a lesson from British papers like the Times of London, which treat traffic violence as a preventable public safety issue rather than reflexively blaming victims.