The Seattle Times reports on Seattle Police Department (SPD) stories regarding the Department of Justice (DOJ) consent decree with a lack of context.
“A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on?” I hate to begin any blog with a quote, but this quote, attributed to Mark Twain, has too much truth in it to ignore. One reason for this is the assistance a lie gets as well as the interference the truth receives from the news media. This certainly applies to national news sources. However, local news demonstrates time and again they are not immune to this affliction
Is it a lack of integrity, is it laziness, or is it malicious? I truly wonder why reporters at the Seattle Times refuse to put the story of the DOJ consent decree over the SPD into its proper context. Now, at the risk of beating that proverbial dead horse, once again Seattle Times reporter Steve Miletich failed to put a story involving the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) bogus consent decree fraudulently imposed on the SPD into proper context in a recent story: “Mayor unveils plan to fix puzzling police-discipline system” (Nov. 12, 2014), which is a story deserving of its own column.
The danger of a lack of context, as I’ve written numerous times, is that the good people of Seattle are deceived into assuming the DOJ consent decree, or settlement agreement, is entirely legitimate. The “Seattle Times” reports that the DOJ says SPD officers routinely physically abuse Seattle’s citizens; so it must be true.
The fact that the DOJ refused to release the study’s methodology, which laid the flimsy foundation for their report, seems unworthy of recalling for Times’ readers. The fact that a professor from a prestigious local university debunked the report is apparently also undeserving of mention.
This is a quote from the Times’ article: “Murray’s steps come on top of reforms arising from the city’s 2012 consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department to address excessive use of force.” How is anyone with little familiarity with the history of the situation supposed to take anything away other than SPD officers are guilty of doing what the DOJ is accusing them of?
What would be wrong with writing this instead: “Murray’s steps come on top of reforms arising from the city’s controversial or contentious 2012 consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department to address alleged or purported excessive use of force.”
Just two of these or similar words inserted into the story inform the readers that their police officers are not necessarily the thugs and brutes the DOJ claims them to be. What’s interesting from a journalistic perspective is the fact that it was controversial and quite contentious makes not just a more complete news story but also a better one.
Since when is contention and controversy something the news media eschews? Oh, right, ever since the media began swaying with the nature, or political party, of whomever is the target. We should ask ourselves why the Seattle Times fails time and again to place this issue, which directly affects Seattle’s police officers, into an accurate context. Is it apathy? Is it antipathy? Or, is it simply ignorance?