The first freshly dead body I ever saw lay in the back of a police vehicle, an African-American teenager who had tried to shoot an off-duty cop. He missed, and got shot by the cop instead.
For the City News Bureau of Chicago, that was a story. But not every shooting death was news in 1982. There were 670 homicides in Chicago that year, and City News judged a large number of them “cheap.”
That’s right — “cheap.” It was news slang for an event that was not worth a story. It was also a ghastly way to describe a lost life, even in the hard-bitten argot of City News.
The notion of a “cheap” death came to mind after the weekend carnage of 74 shootings and 12 deaths in Chicago. Those deaths made headlines, but largely because there were so many of them.