The story of Annie Le — the Yale pharmacology Ph.D. student whose body was discovered in her lab this week — is horrific, and it’s difficult to know how to begin discussing it. But one of the aspects I’ve been watching with interest is how different media outlets have handled the story, and different groups of readers have responded to it. The story broke in the Register as a missing persons report, and the paper’s fantastic cops reporter, Bill Kaempffer, was getting scoops from his myriad police sources right away. Any type of Yale scandal is A1 stuff for the Register, and a gorgeous scientist about to married certainly fit the bill. When I was riding the subway in New York last week, I noticed that the Daily News had picked up the story, highlighting the wedding aspect and placing the story on an inside page. The Times also ran a brief article focusing on the Yale, New-Haven-dangerous trope. Back in New Haven this weekend, the Register’s front page was dominated by a pretty tasteless banner headline, “Bloody Clothes,” and the cesspit that is the Register’s comments section was weighing in with conspiracy theories. And with the discovery of Le’s body Sunday night, the update made the front page of the Times Monday morning.
There’s been a lot of discussion in certain media and feminism blogs in the past few years about the excessive coverage of disappearances and murders of young, white women, versus the lack of coverage for many of the same incidents that happen to people of color. While this story would seem to buck that trend — Le was of Southeast Asian descent — it also perpetuates it in many ways. To my mind, there are three reasons this has become a nationwide story: 1) It involves an Ivy League school, 2) She was young and beautiful, and 3) She was about to get married. While in some ways it’s progress, I guess, to have this level of coverage of Le’s death, it also speaks to how people/women are valued in the news media. In New Haven especially, there are many other crimes against women Le’s age that go largely unreported.