A twenty-five year old woman was found dead in a four-story Brooklyn apartment building that caught on fire early Saturday morning. Police identified the victim as Lorena Escalera.
The New York Times on the other hand identified the woman that died in the fire as “curvaceous,” someone who “drew admiring glances” in her “gritty Brooklyn neighborhood,” and noted she was known to invite men for visits to her apartment.
Just to make sure we’re all on the same a page, a woman was found dead and the first sentence in the New York Times story about the incident was: “She was 25 and curvaceous, and she often drew admiring glances in the gritty Brooklyn neighborhood where she was known to invite men for visits to her apartment, her neighbors and the authorities said.”
The two Times writers Al Baker and Nate Schweber said Escalera was “called Lorena,” as opposed to saying she was “named Lorena” or that she simply was Lorena.
The story that should have been about an apartment fire or even a suspicious fire instead turned in to the reporters interviewing neighbors about who Escalera was supposedly sleeping with and how she dressed.
Below is an excerpt from Baker and Schweber’s story published in the Times on Saturday:
Oscar Hernandez, 30, a mechanic, said she had had some of her ribs removed in an effort to slim her waist.
“For a man, he was gorgeous,” Mr. Hernandez said, noting Ms. Escalera’s flowing hair and “hourglass figure.”
Gary Hernandez, 25, a neighbor, said that Ms. Escalera had worked as an escort and that he regularly saw her advertising her service on an adult Web site.
“She was always on her laptop posting ads about herself,” said Mr. Hernandez (who is not related to Oscar Hernandez). “Still, she was a nice person.”
A debris pile outside the apartment, which is above a funeral home, contained many colorful items. Among them were wigs, women’s shoes, coins from around the world, makeup, hair spray, handbags, a shopping bag from Spandex House, a red feather boa and a pamphlet on how to quit smoking.
Aaron McQuade, GLAAD’s Director of News and Field Media questions how the Times would have covered the story if the word “transgender” was out of the equation:
Would the New York Times ever describe a woman who is not transgender, who had died in a fire, as “curvaceous” - in the first sentence, no less? Would it carefully note that her apartment contained makeup and “women’s shoes?” Would it say that she was “called” whatever her name was - especially if police later identified her by that name?
McQuade noted on GLAAD’s blog his organization has reached out the Times to ensure that “exploitative pieces like this” aren’t printed in the future.