Monday, September 20, 2010

Savvy Journalists Can Spin a Story Too, Kevin

Kevin Osborne of CityBeat wrote an attack on the Enquirer and Joe Deters last week over the way he claimed they spun the Washington Park incident where a police officer accidentally ran over a person allegedly sleeping under a blanket. Kevin ended his column with this paragraph:
"Savvy politicians know how to spin a story, and all too often media outlets are willing to play along in search of an “exclusive.” In this case, the public wasn't well served by the prosecutor or the local daily newspaper of record."

I guess what's good for the geese isn't good for the goose, at least not to Kevin. The public was not served by Kevin Osborne's article.  The family of victim was served with a set of  "facts" spun in such a way to help with a civil lawsuit more than likely to be filed in the near future. In the process of attacking the Enquirer and Joe Deters for drawing conclusions from an incomplete investigation, Kevin did the same thing, he just spun the case, and maybe a civil trial jury pool, with the "facts" that he cherry picked out of the more detailed, yet unfinished, report. Kevin made it clear in his article that the investigation was not complete and no-conclusions had be finalized. So Kevin's doing just what the Enquirer did, but goes way farther in spin-doctoring.

Publishing the statement about what drugs someone alleged was taking for medical conditions and then reporting the manufacturer's list of POSSIBLE side effects was un-journalistic.  Drawing conclusions and declaring what those possible medical conditions might mean in a court of law is irresponsible and damaging to the the focus of our justice system: Truth.  Spinning the facts to fit a story-line that helps activists push an unrelated cause against progress in redeveloping the city, well that's a reason why I am sad that Kevin's column is one of the few sources of news in the City.  I am sad because it is not news, Kevin is giving opinion that is being interpreted by much of his readers as at least a semi-objective news article. Kevin and City will not claim to free of bias, but when you use conjecture for a column, and hide behind have more information than the Enquirer, that doesn't mean you are right about your claim, that means you have more data, some of which might very well be irrelevant.

It was also very troubling when Kevin 'reported' this statement in his article:
Witness Tony Ferrell told troopers, “The word on the street is that the cop was chasing a beer drinker.” Yes, folks, it could be that Burton died as Polk pursued someone for a minor misdemeanor, which carries no jail time under Ohio law, only a $150 fine.
Word on the Street? Seriously, he is going to report that as relevant? Did another witness happen to mention that it was actually 3CDC driving the car and the cops are covering for them? Someone said is was Marge Schott. How about Spiderman?  Kevin makes this bad journalism by using the statement of  a person who was telling police of the rumors as the basis to draw a conclusion and attack police. Kevin picked out that quote because it gave him the opportunity to attack a police officer and the power structure and gave him a cheap and hollow political point. That is what we call spinning and in this case he jumped to conclusions with the purpose of making his readers distrust the police and be mad. Well, Kevin made me mad, but not at the police, I am mad at him for judging a case before the final report is completed, one that will be analysed by trained officials. I am mad at him for using a tragic case to push his political viewpoints.  I am mad at him for not serving the public, and instead serving the needs of those he wants to get a big settlement from the City.

Deters may have read a preliminary version of the same information Kevin read, and more, since Deters is the Proscecuting Attorney. The Eqnuirer's lack of research is, well, common, but when you are running a daily instead of a weekly paper, cutting corners is what you are going to do. Blame them for not writing a follow-up story after getting more information.  Don't blame them for not cherry picking the facts on the case as you may want.  This was a tragic accident, but doing your best to making it into another police brutality case is not going work. The cop screwed up.  Thinking there is a criminal offense here is not about this case, it is about bias towards police.  Let the family sue and settle for a large sum of money.  It does no good trying to use this sad case for political causes that don't relate to the facts.  We need calm and sensible journalism.  We don't need yellow-journalism from CityBeat.  Leave that to the kooks who wear capes.

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