Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Journalistic Excess

I was reading the paper after work. The headline showed, “…Officer Arrested For Domestic Violence.” As usual, the front-page article showed the facts, in this case, that the man was arrested. After that they often show some details if they have it. In this case: none. When they run out of realistic details, they show assumed context, such as “It is unclear that ... " [read that as,”we don’t know shit”] … Finally, they dig into the bowels of the crud they have accumulated on the people, organization, and ideas. Even if remotely related, they embellish that. The bottom line is that they are not reporting news that they know.

What I have just said is that the so-called reporter found out that a police officer was arrested for domestic violence. Anything else on the front-page and afterward is crud to pad the space on the pages of the paper, either unrelated, or fabricated.

You might think that I am being vindictive against this sort of reporting. You may be right. What pisses me off is when these so-called reporters report nothing that is factual. They say, “assumed”, “presumed”, “alleged” “it is unclear”, and then grab half-baked stories out of the archives that were just as badly unsubstantiated, but they are now on record [their own record, that is]. When they don’t have a story, they either make one up, or create one. Sure, they try to cover their asses to avoid libel. The problem is, in most cases, the target of their ill-reporting has deeper problems than suing a paper for libel.

This one is made up based on an arrest for which they have no detail. If they had the detail, they would have printed it. They tried to create a story when they said, “The [person] is expected to appear before the Justice of the Peace …” So where is the news in that? Has it occurred? No. Oh, yeah, it’s expected to occur. That’s news? That usually happens after an arrest, you moron!

These barracudas should be given a shovel to move some dirt to build up our southern border, and not be messing with gullible people’s minds. And, of course, the man's photograph in uniform was part of the front page article. After all, they have to be factual.

I don’t know this particular police officer. What I do know is that when we are on the job, we don’t ask, “Before I let you watch my back, you must agree that you are not an accused wife beater. Are you one, or not?”

At the least, that question, if I voiced it, would be awkward. It would also earn me some loose teeth, and a long time on my own, as in “being ostracized.” At best, the officer would leave me to my own devices, which is not good.

The bottom line is, we help one another without asking questions. We are not blind to some limitations that show up from time to time, but once we are out on the street, we live and die by the support of our peers. The time and the place are determined by the law-breaker. The rest is up to us.

Getting back to this man, I find it very disturbing to have discovered this situation. No man should be violent toward a person except in special circumstances, which this was not one. Worse even, he is a member of the elite, he should know better. I could not think of a more distasteful chore than to arrest a fellow officer for domestic violence.

I happen to know the judge who is to interview and then decide this man’s immediate future. I have met him professionally, and we also have a connection through my wife on a personal basis. If I were before him in court as an accused, I would be very much embarrassed. I would also be very much concerned about my future.

The police officer in this situation has his own problems. If he is cleared of charges, he may still carry a patina of wrongdoing that will be difficult to wear off. If he is guilty, his career in law enforcement is over. We are held to a higher standard than others. A politician may commit hideous acts and the get elected to a highly coveted political post anyway (see former Senator Kennedy). But once a law enforcement officer is accused of a crime or misbehaviour, guilty or not, there is slim chance of extricating himself from it. I have personally known several who had to give up law enforcement like that.

In no way do I condone domestic violence regardless of who is doing it to whom. If this man is guilty, the courts will determine the punishment that he deserves. I feel sorry for him and his victim. If he is innocent, I feel his pain. Guilty or innocent, he will never recover from this. It just pisses me off to see his face on the front page with the implied accusations.

I am not proposing putting limits on journalism. I am adamant, however, on professionalism in any field. Writing for the public comes with a responsibility. The so-called professionals should consider the consequences of their accusations and careless throwing of assumptions. If they are news reporters, they should stay with reporting news, not padding their gutless, useless, and careless words with assumptions and old crud, like in this case.

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