Gee & Ursula: Finding the balance in talking about crime in Seattle

Mar 20, 2022, 7:30 AM
Seattle, crime...
Police on the scene, investigating after a man was shot in the Pioneer Square neighborhood in 2021. (Photo courtesy of SPD Blotter)
(Photo courtesy of SPD Blotter)

KIRO Newsradio’s Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin took a moment to reflect Thursday, asking themselves if they focus too much on crime.

Producer Andrew Lanier asked: “Do we skew the public’s perspective on safety by spending so much time on crime?”

“No,” Ursula said. “What makes it very difficult is to understand what goes into crime and how it has increased here — and the numbers back up it has increased here and nationally, but it has increased here. It’s easy if you want to blame it on a particular party, or blame it on the governor, or whoever, but it is such a complex issue to talk about that we have to bring it up.”

“It’s part of a whole bunch of other things that are happening as well — we talk about poverty, we talk about drugs, we talk about mental health issues, we talk about decisions made in leadership, whether it’s the prosecutor’s office, city attorney’s office, police departments — all those things weigh into all of it,” she added.

“I believe that the duty of our show is to reflect what is going on in the community,” Ursula continued. “And what is going on in the community, one of the things that worries people, is crime. Public safety is one of the biggest issues and one of the biggest priorities for, I would say, a vast majority of our listeners.”

Ursula has been in the news business for more than 30 years and remembers a time when the saying “if it bleeds, it leads” was “apropos,” and there was too much of a focus on crime.

“But I think we try to bring more context to it,” she said about the current coverage. “I don’t think it’s overdoing it.”

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Gee disagreed and said, yes, sometimes it’s too much.

“I believe all of us want to be safe, all of us want our families safe, but the majority of us, we are safe. If you really want to talk about, in this country, where the state of Washington ranks when it comes to homicides per 100,000 people, Washington state is toward the bottom. At the top is the state of Mississippi.”

There’s often a narrative of Democrats versus Republicans, but Gee says Mississippi has more homicides because they have more poverty.

“Back to the crime discussion: Most people that are listening right now, you are safe. Except for property crimes that have gone up, catalytic converters, stealing of cars, downtown Seattle, Tacoma, getting windows busted, that’s on the rise — no doubt about that,” he said.

As an example, Gee noted that if there were 100 protests, the one that will get shown the most in the media is the one that is a riot, that has a fire, “not the 99 other protests that were peaceful.”

“I do think that our show, we try to get a balance,” he clarified. “And I also believe that as I’m talking about this topic, I think that this week I’m going to write down as one of the toughest weeks that we ever had.”

“I think it’s important for us, as a show, to always provide context,” Ursula added. “… You brought up downtown, and catalytic converters being stolen, businesses being vandalized — it is bad. Even if it’s not as bad as Chicago or not as bad as Mississippi, for us in the community, it is different, it is impacting us, it does give us this sense of a lack of safety.”

Listen to the whole conversation:

Listen to Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Gee & Ursula: Finding the balance in talking about crime in Seattle