I applaud E. R. Shipp for piercing the media silence around the death of 13-year-old Jesse Dirkhising at the hands of two gay men [ombudsman, Nov. 14]. But I did not appreciate being lumped in a clause with David Duke without any context except we're both "hostile to homosexuals."

Shipp's blanket description of my shared "hostility" with Duke underlines what's wrong with newsroom thinking about covering homosexuals. Is it considered "hostile" to straight people to cover them when they are perpetrators of crimes as well as when they are victims?

David Smith of the Human Rights Campaign proclaimed: "This has nothing to do with gay people." By that standard, Matthew Shepard's death had nothing to do with straight people.

Activist groups such as the Human Rights Campaign have used Shepard not simply as a "symbol" but as a spiked club. They claimed Shepard was killed not by his assailants but by a "climate" fostered by newspaper ads telling gay people they could repent their sins and come to Christ.

Shipp's column did not refute the charge that your paper follows a liberal agenda. She had little explanation for finding 80 stories on Shepard and just one brief mention of Dirkhising. She quotes national news editor Jackson Diehl as saying your paper only covers out-of-town murders that "caused a large social sensation."

But the excuse is backward. The "sensation" was caused by the coverage instead of the other way around.

--Tim Graham

The writer is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center.