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Media Watch

An Open Letter to Daily News Deputy Editor Arthur Browne

5:31 PM EDT on August 16, 2012

We noticed you've taken an interest in traffic injuries lately. This is a welcome development.

Tens of thousands of New Yorkers are hurt in traffic every year, many of them seriously. Well over 200 are killed annually. Most of these crashes get little to no attention from police, much less the media. So it's encouraging that a major outlet like the Daily News is finally taking notice.

In fact, since you are now giving front-page treatment to this issue, there are a number of stories that need telling. The failure of NYPD to investigate thousands of serious traffic crashes year after year is a travesty. City Council members have put forward legislation begging the police to adhere to state law and fully investigate these crashes. Nearly half of city motorists who run over and kill people don't even get a traffic summons! A cover exposé on this major scandal could help save lives.

Did you know that state traffic laws are often cited by prosecutors as a major hindrance in bringing negligent drivers to justice? It's true. That alone should be good for a year of house editorials.

Fortunately, you are off to a ripping start. For instance, your article on Richard Bernstein, the Central Park runner who was struck and injured by cyclist Omar Shakir -- good catch, by the way -- was reported more thoroughly than most any Daily News traffic injury story we've seen. By printing such a detailed account, you have raised the bar for future coverage of traffic-related tragedies, which practically never includes such details as the identity of the vehicle operator, or vehicle speed.

We were particularly surprised to see special attention paid to the cyclist in this case. Oftentimes, Daily News traffic injury and fatality stories barely acknowledge the existence of the vehicle operator, and have nonsensical headlines like "Veteran UPS driver struck by SUV in lower Manhattan in critical condition," and "3-year-old Brooklyn boy killed by van before father's eyes." It's like these SUVs and vans just have minds of their own.

How refreshing today's reportage was compared to the typical traffic crash story, where the driver is swiftly exonerated and even commiserated with.

In the past, many Daily News stories about traffic injuries did not even mention the name of the victim. Thank goodness that seems to be changing. Having all those life stories told in your paper -- about 40 a day -- will make quite an impact.

It's not just injuries caused by cyclists that will get this treatment, right?

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