In our special Crime Tracker report we ask the question, "Did journalism help kill the Mall of Memphis?" Perhaps more than any other factor, crime led to the downfall of the mall. But did news coverage of those crimes keep you away?
Memphian Andrew Keasling said, "When we first moved in, people said this was sketchy place to be. So don't go at all costs." Tamera Webber added, "It's best to go on out of business because they don't have anything in there. It was too much crime in the mall." David Stenberg said, "People became scared of the area, the neighborhood."
In 1993, a Memphis liquor store owner was shot and killed at his place of business on Elvis Presley Blvd. The criminals put his body in a car and drove it here to the Mall of Memphis parking lot where they left it. That crime and a series of others through the 90s were reported widely by all the Memphis media.
Dr. M. David Arant, journalism professor said, "Things like that happen. I don't know how you can not report them."
The 90 acre complex became a convenient place for crooks to commit crime and disappear. We kept you informed of major crime on the property. The mall became an innocent victim as crime increased. Mall managers did all in their power to keep the criminals away, even opening a police sub-station inside. We covered that, too. U-of-M journalism professor David Arant says reporters must cover crime but should also seek out its underlying causes. "We don't move beyond reporting crimes to develop a way to report on how the community can help solve the crime."
Why does this matter? Because we're losing millions in sales and property tax revenue with the mall's closing. Nearby property values are plummeting. Bad news. The shoppers we visited with today say yes, they want to see crime reports on the news but more solution oriented stories, too! "There's plenty of safety issues that are being addressed. You do not need to report the bad and just scare people to have them not come."
Misty Ferrell said, "Crime can happen anywhere. As a reporter, it's your job to let people know where crime happens."