Readers of popular media want the juicy details of a story. It is the details of the wealthy, beautiful, and famous that readers want to know; even if the subject is a criminal. An article may promote a man for once being a good businessman, but now he is just a wealthy drug trafficker with prominent ties. Other journalists may be straight forward about who did the crime and how they paid for it. An article may also be written from both sides trying not to indicate bias, but when the drug trafficker is helping authorities to indicate the users of his drugs, it makes the reader wonder if the subject really is a criminal.
Some journalists may also find their subject to be average and give them no more than two paragraphs. Then there are the articles written by two different journalists about the same subject, one indicating the subject is a beauty queen being subject to atrocities in jail, while the other journalist indicates she is just a criminal. The Miami Herald describes Walter Alexander Nogal Marquez as a prominent man of class who has climbed to reach his strong political ties. Mr. Marquez has been arrested four times, most recently on drug trafficking charges.
The article describes Mr. Marquez’s wealthy and influential family, also known for drug trafficking. The background description provided sensationalizes the subject to coerce the reader into believing this is a man of stature, who at one time, “…left business footprints in Miami” (Reyes). The facts state the subject was involved in murder, bombings, and drug trafficking, yet the writer still indicates he is charming.
It would be hard for a reader to disassociate that Mr. Marquez was once a prominent resident of Miami; therefore, this could be the reason why the writer felt it necessary to sensationalize his background and mention he was once a promising businessman in the target readers’ location. However, for the writer to describe the criminal as charming after describing the crimes Mr. Marquez has indicated his prominence in society presides over the crimes he has committed. Although the previous article described sensationalized the criminal and used some bias, it is still possible for a journalist to report how a group committed a crime and how they did, or did not, pay for the crime.
In an article published by the Washington Post, a writer describes the affects of Caribbean activity on drug trafficking in the United States. In Antigua and Barbuda, the Bird family, which has governed the islands for decades, has also had its share of drug-related scandals. In 1990, Vere Bird Jr. , son of then prime minister Vere Bird, helped ship 100 Uzi machine guns and 400 Galil automatic rifles through Antigua to the Medellin cocaine cartel in Colombia.
While he was supposed to be banished from politics for life, he recently has emerged as an adviser to his brother Lester, who is now prime minister, according to political sources in Antigua. On May 5, 1995, Ivor Bird, brother of Lester and Vere Jr. , was arrested at the international airport with 12 kilos of cocaine as he attempted to board a flight. Instead of going to prison, he paid a $75,000 fine, as allowed under Antiguan law, and is now free. (Farah) The writer does mention prominent family ties; however, for this article it is used to describe how the criminals did not have to pay their debt to society for the crime committed.
The words and phrases used by the writer does not sensationalize the criminals, but instead describes the crime they committed and that he, the writer, feels they were not punished appropriately. Other writers may feel it necessary to view all sides of an issue. For example, in a USA Today article the writer describes how a one time clubhouse attendant for Major League Baseball is now blowing the whistle on players he has supplied with steroids. In one statement the writer comments, “He is being asked to deliver a powerful blow to the integrity of Major League Baseball” (Nightengale).
Although Kirk Radomski, the accused steroid dealer once worked for the New York Mets, he has been accused of trafficking the steroids to players in California and other states as well. With the long list of players he is claiming to have delivered to, the authorities are stating the players’ use of steroids is wrongful to the public and other players. Towards the end of the article the writer indicates that Mr. Radomski is the whistleblower, although still being charged, yet the players who used the drugs are on the same criminal level.
A criminal is a criminal according to an Article published by The Baltimore Sun. Two young men charged with drug trafficking and criminal intent are given two paragraphs. There are no frills of the criminals’ background or the details of what happened, only their charges and sentencing. One is described as a gang member, the other labeled as an “armed career criminal” (Dolan). The writer does go on to state the label of “armed career criminal” is a legal category and not an insinuated label by the writer. The writer does mention one of the criminals have a brother charged recently in a similar crime.
A family tie seems to be a frequently mentioned fact in five of the six articles reviewed. In an article written by the The New York Times, the writer felt it necessary to describe a female drug lord as a seductress and beauty queen. According to the article, In Mexico, a Fugitive’s Arrest Captivates the Cameras: Ms. Avila Beltran, a shapely, raven-haired, 46-year-old with a taste for high fashion… seduced many drug kingpins and upper-echelon police officers, becoming a powerful force in the cocaine world through a combination of ruthless business sense, a mobster’s wiles and her sex appeal.
(McKinley) The writer felt it necessary to focus on the subjects female traits in order to sensationalize her status as a criminal. Although there is evidence that supports the statements made by the writer, a criminal is still a criminal. The article also mentions the posh restaurants and salons Ms. Beltran frequented further sensationalizing her lifestyle to be on a celebrity level. The writer also includes that Ms. Beltran is unhappy with her current home, prison, by including, “She states the ban on bringing in food from restaurants is violating her rights” (McKinley)..
An interesting piece to the story the writer of The New York Times left out was Ms. Beltran is not the only female drug trafficker in her family. In a similar article written by the Miami Herald a distant female relative, another drug lord, is mentioned. The New York Times article only mentions male relatives that are in the family business. Quite possibly The New York Times writer wanted the readers to believe she was one of a kind.
Another interesting aspect between the two separate articles is the Miami Herald states the facts and only uses the following statement to describe the criminal’s good looks and criminal background, “Blessed with charm and good looks, Sandra Avila Beltran is enthralling Mexico. Not as a beauty queen, but as an alleged drug lord” (Rodriguez). Although the two articles were written about the same subject they varied in description immensely.
On a further note, Ms. Beltran is awaiting indictment in Miami; therefore, her criminal connection in that city may have influenced a hard surfaced article. Ms. Beltran, like Mr. Marquez mentioned in the first article both have ties to Miami, but due to Mr. Marquez previously being known there as a good businessman the journalist was kinder in his remarks. Due to the high society and popularity circles involved with these two articles, the articles were long and descriptive with their backgrounds. Mr. Radomski, the Major League Baseball steroid deliverer, and the two young men mentioned in The Baltimore Sun article, were not given this benefit; apparently, they are not considered high class criminals. Class status did not seem to affect the mention of a criminal family background in the articles.
As previously mentioned, five out of the six articles referenced family connections with drug trafficking and other criminal activity. Family connection or not, all of the primary subjects of these articles are charged criminals, however, the way the wealthy are portrayed could coerce a reader into believing that drug trafficking has become a glamorous activity.
Dolan, Mattew. “Two get U. S. Prison Time”. The Baltimore Sun. 6 Oct. 2007. 12 Oct. 2007 < http://www.="" baltimoresun.="" com/news/local/baltimore_city/bal-md.="" ci.="" guns06oct06,0,7999160.="" story="">