Hudy: Why was Le global news?

The death of Annie Le GRD ’13 was certainly the saddest campus event of my time at Yale. The number of students, faculty, staff and other members of the community who gathered together on Cross Campus at Le’s vigil showed that I am not alone in this sorrow.

Although discussing this moving case still hurts, it continues to enter conversation regularly in classrooms, dorm rooms, around dining halls and even in late-night pool games in butteries.

I believe it is important for our community to be aware of, discuss and learn from this tragic event. Although the saddening event is closest to Yale and New Haven community members, we are not the only ones talking about her case.

When my high school friends in Hungary called me to discuss Le’s tragedy, which they had read about on the front page of a Hungarian daily, I felt ambivalent. My parents told me they were “extremely worried” about me after hearing on TV about Le’s murder — as the first item of the afternoon news.

That was when I became conscious of the global awareness of this event. The story was covered not only nationally, but also internationally. How come this murder at Yale hit the global audience? Clearly, its prominence was not hurt by the U.S. domination of the global news agenda.

The coverage of this tragic case by many major news services surpassed that of other concurrent sad events happening both inside and outside the United States. While the high-profile homicide at Yale was CNN.com’s “most popular” news item until recently, a 20-year-old college student at the Art Institute of Dallas was found dead in her apartment Sept. 12. Four days later, when CNN reported on Samantha Michelle Nance’s death, its article — “Texas art student’s slaying flies under media radar” — did not receive even a single blog comment.

Nance was unscrupulously murdered in a dreadful and sensational way similar to how Annie Le was. She was killed by “multiple stab wounds” from “an unknown cutting tool.” The lack of coverage regarding Nance’s death bolstered the point Jack Shafer made in his article “Murder Draped in Ivy,” published by Slate on Thursday: The media can’t get enough of Yale and Harvard crime. Many people I have talked to here at Yale believe the reason Le’s story got picked up and the other did not lies in the association with the Yale name: Annie Le went to Yale, while Nance did not.

In the midst of such tragic events in America, a 12-year-old Yemeni girl died of painful childbirth after she was married off to a 24-year-old man. This incident is part of a larger trend in Yemen, where more than half of all girls are married before the age of 18. Nevertheless, this news item received relatively little coverage both inside and outside the United States. The decided prominence in the United States of Le’s murder over this news item might be reasonable, as only one event happened in this country. Nevertheless, the rest of the world is unreasonable in prioritizing Le’s case over arguably more significant global — and often national — news items.

Did the Yale name attract global attention to Annie Le’s death, or did the shocking circumstances of her case interest the global audience? Although I cannot definitively answer this question, one thing remains certain for me: As tragic as Le’s death was for the Yale community, it is also important to consider the other events that were displaced from the headlines by her story.

Endry Hudy is a junior in Calhoun College.

Comments

  • anon

    Not to sound crass, but Le’s story began as a disappearance, and most stories accompanied that with a picture of a very attractive and nice looking girl. Since she goes to a relatively good school, that adds to the tragedy and framework of a good story. Once it became a murder case, all elements of a classic tale were in place. Take a look at other recent death cases, and you can’t find that recipe anywhere else.

  • ’08

    Also, Yale resides in the NYC metro area media market as well as bearing a proximity to Boston/Providence/Hartford.

    Plus, tons of Ivy Leaguers are in newsmedia.

    The Ivies always get steady media attention.

  • sylvia

    All is because of newsworthiness: (1) murder occurred at Yale; (2) victim was bride-to-be; (3)murder occurred at a busy Tuesday morning at a highly secured workplace, just to name a few.

  • Ivy

    Any headline will definitely displace another headline that could have been there had the one that appeared not appeared. This case is definitely sad because she was bright, young, about to be married, and then murdered by some crazy guy who works with her in a secured place. THAT is worthy of our sympathy and attention to change what we can to prevent other such events from happening.

  • Ashley

    Because she is of Asian descent… Let her be black and NO ONE would have cared.

  • dab

    Like many stories which avalanche in our media driven culture, the reporting on Annie Le’s murder may have less to do with where she went to school and more to do with symbolism.

    Annie Le, daughter of immigrants, driven, with the transient attractiveness of youth, in a single generation showed the story of the American Dream, rags-to-riches, was alive and well even today. She represented the very best of America and of humanity. She was likely to be a member of that less than 1% of humanity which contributes to society, who was to leave the world a measurably better place than when she entered. She was on an ascendant trajectory in both her professional and private lives.

    Her accused murderer, someone doubtless with opportunities equal to Ms. Le’s, nevertheless achieved nothing special in his life. He is part of the 99% which contribute little. Indeed, he is part of that 1% which will leave the world a worse place as he passes through.

    And Annie Le’s death over what is purported to be unclean mouse cages represents an example of chaos, senselessness, evil – for lack of a better word – triumphing over good.

    This story has left me quite melancholy. I feel for the victim, her fiance, and her family. So bitter it must be to be preceded in death by a child. My heart goes out to them.

  • @ Ashley

    dear, i do hope you are joking…

    If Not, Puh-LEEEEASSE go back to your cave of self-pity.

    If she were black, the media attention would have been just as strong… hope that makes you feel better. By the way, do you really feel the need to play the race card in an instance of the cruel murder of an innocent girl? Do you feel threatened in some bizarre way by the fact that Annie Le’s non-black name got some attention after she was killed and stuffed in a wall?!?! I’m sure she would have been happy to trade spots with you and give you all of the glory that postmortem media reports afford. I personally wouldn’t accept that proposition, and I’m guessing you wouldn’t either….so let’s not hypothesize about what *would* have happened if she were black.

    Ugh…really, ashley. really?

  • chris

    Like many stories which avalanche in our media driven culture, the reporting on Annie Le’s murder may have less to do with where she went to school and more to do with symbolism.

    Annie Le, daughter of immigrants, driven, with the transient attractiveness of youth, in a single generation showed the story of the American Dream, rags-to-riches, was alive and well even today. She represented the very best of America and of humanity. She was likely to be a member of that less than 1% of humanity which contributes to society, who was to leave the world a measurably better place than when she entered. She was on an ascendant trajectory in both her professional and private lives.

    Her accused murderer, someone doubtless with opportunities equal to Ms. Le’s, nevertheless achieved nothing special in his life. He is part of the 99% which contribute little. Indeed, he is part of that 1% which will leave the world a worse place as he passes through.

    And Annie Le’s death over what is purported to be unclean mouse cages represents an example of chaos, senselessness, evil – for lack of a better word – triumphing over good.

    This story has left me quite melancholy. I feel for the victim, her fiance, and her family. So bitter it must be to be preceded in death by a child. My heart goes out to them.

    —————-
    —————-

    Well said and I completely agree. This case was a perfect combination of what makes a story grab the public’s attention. But a huge part of its appeal was not Yale alone, but Annie herself. She was ultimate tragic victim, by all accounts an incredible woman, and thinking about this case still cause me to choke up and pause whatever I’m doing, and I didn’t even know her personally. The amazing person that Annie was is what is driving this case, and the environment in which it took place, the mystery surrounding it, the violence of it, the villain in Ray Clark ( alleged), all contribute to blast this story into the stratosphere of media attention and the world’s consciousness. Annie’s whole life was extraordinary, full of incredible achievements, why would her death have been any different. I cant frankly think of anyone more deserving of the attention then Annie, and certainly we have all seen much less deserving individuals grab the limelight. As the world mourns with the Le family, let that be one some small consolation for the unfairness of one story dominating another in our collective consciousness.

  • Charles

    99 percent of the world leaves the world a worse place?

    I think the whole point is that there are hundreds of people who are murdered every day that have the same hopes of making those around them happier and in doing so, they also change the world in ways that are too complex to be reported by the news. Annie probably contributed the most to the world by doing the same.

    All in all, its pretty obvious that Annie’s murder would not have been international news if she didn’t go to Yale. Its a good reminder of inequity across the world.

  • @ #7

    I too wish that we lived in a color-blind world… but the truth is, the cases of missing [usually] white women get much more attention. “Missing white woman syndrome” is so pervasive that it even has its own Wikipedia entry and Onion parody. Can you name a prominent case where a black woman went missing? Didn’t think so… and I am frankly surprised that the Annie Le case received as much attention from the media as it did. The compelling factors of photogenic face, Yale name, “CSI”-friendly angle (secured building, apparent lack of motive added suspense and mystery) and imminent wedding were enough to boost the case into the national consciousness for the likes of Rupert Murdoch et al.
    Rest in peace, Annie Le.

  • Jim

    Many of the reasons cited here for the interest in the Annie Le case are valid: her accomplishments and personality, her beauty, the fact that she was so close to being married (to someone of a different ethnic background, which adds to the interest), the apparent self-image and self-control problems of her accused killer, who was nonetheless a fellow Yale employee. Add to all that is the gigantic mystery hovering over this case – why it happened. There is no apparent motive. No doubt the defense team will come up with something, but as of now an overriding element of the tragedy of this murder is that it seemed to have happened for no reason at all.

  • Earned elitism

    99 percent of the world leaves the world a worse place?

    I think the whole point is that there are hundreds of people who are murdered every day that have the same hopes of making those around them happier and in doing so, they also change the world in ways that are too complex to be reported by the news. Annie probably contributed the most to the world by doing the same.

    All in all, its pretty obvious that Annie’s murder would not have been international news if she didn’t go to Yale. Its a good reminder of inequity across the world.

    ————

    Lets remember that Annie did not earn her place at Yale because she was a rich girl growing up in east coast prep schools, she earned her spot purely through achievement. She grew up in a small town in California, from a modest, middle class family. Her ability to excel was based on her massive talent and hard work alone. If there is inequality from going to a University like Yale in our public consciousness, at least it was not unfairly bestowed in Annie’s case. she earned it. What could be more equal then that.

  • @ #10

    i think you are confusing socioeconomic status with race (which could be perceived as racial stereotyping?). A black female Yale student gone missing would probably receive as much media attention as an Asian female Yale student or a white female Yale student: A Lot of Coverage. A black female gone missing in the 16th district in the Bronx is probably going to get as much media attention as a white female in the same circumstances: None.

  • chris

    i think you are confusing socioeconomic status with race (which could be perceived as racial stereotyping?). A black female Yale student gone missing would probably receive as much media attention as an Asian female Yale student or a white female Yale student: A Lot of Coverage. A black female gone missing in the 16th district in the Bronx is probably going to get as much media attention as a white female in the same circumstances: None.

    ————-

    fair enough, but I would also argue that a murder at Yale is a bigger story then one set in a poor crime ridden area. Part of why the media doesnt pay attention to crime in these areas is because its perceived as commonplace. That means the public tunes out. A murder at a school like Yale is unusual and people pay attention. Its a story. The murder of a congressman would garner more attention then the murder of a a middle manager from the Target corporation. It would be impossible to cover every story equally, and do we really want to? I still stand by the fact that Annie herself caught the public’s interest even more then the name Yale. Yale got the story off the ground, but Annie’s story kept it flying high.

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