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Weekly reads from CJR for March 25, 2021

How Atlanta's local Korean-language press covered the massacre

National media coverage of last Tuesday’s attack on massage spas in Atlanta didn’t follow the patterns we typically see in the wake of a mass shooting. The press was slow to uncover personal details about the eight victims, six of whom were Asian women—including Xiaojie Tan and Daoyou Feng—and four of Korean descent: Hyun Jung Grant, Soon Chung Park, Suncha Kim, and Yong Ae Yue. Some news stories speculated on the nature of the women's work or investigated the spas as sites of sexual services. The shooter, Robert Aaron Long, had legally bought a firearm mere hours before he killed his first victims, yet there was little talk of gun reform—the immediate conversation remained focused on resolving the question of whether or not the murders were racially motivated. To that end, instead of picking up details of the victims or how the crimes unfolded, the mainstream press parroted official statements and published profiles of the shooter.

The local Korean-language media, however, responded differently. For CJR, Shinhee Kang spoke to Sang Yeon Lee, president of local Korean-language outlet Atlanta K, about the experience of covering this tragedy with an understanding of the spas and their workers. Kang writes that these outlets moved quickly, “unencumbered by language barriers and culturally attuned to the tight-knit community.” They acquired details of the events that didn’t appear elsewhere, and gave readers a nuanced picture of the victims: subsistence workers who shared with one another lives of isolation and insecurity. They were “so close to one another,” Kang writes, “that their children would call their mothers’ colleagues ‘aunties.’”
––Camille Bromley, story editor

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