About the Author
Fair and Balanced
Jeff Long, September 5, 2012 | Police Blog
As my boss, City Manager Scott Neal, said a few weeks ago, I’m back in the saddle … or the office chair, after a summer vacation.
While having time off I had the opportunity to get caught up on the news by reading the newspaper and watching television news. I am a “news junkie” and love seeing all that is happening in the world, but with the hustle and bustle of life, I don’t get the opportunity to do so as often as I’d like.
Stories regarding the police seemed to dominate the news last week. There was one particularly disturbing news story about potential excessive force being used in St. Paul.
Before passing judgment on any story, most of us remember that the news media uses sensationalism. The term “if it bleeds, it leads” certainly seems to be true most days. I periodically take time to watch certain cable news channels to get a good laugh. I don’t think anyone would say that some of those “news” channels present a fair, balanced or unbiased show. Sometimes it’s painfully embarrassing to watch.
A friend of mine who just recently passed away would always say, “Did you see the show called the news?” The news seems so choreographed now. Gone are the days of the serious, unbiased news anchor. I listen to the tone of voice now used in news stories, the facial expressions made and watch the graphic video clips and wonder if I am really getting the full story.
I would encourage everyone to avoid jumping to conclusions regarding the police stories you have seen this week or in the future. Just as police officers are not to jump to conclusions until we know the facts, the public should not jump to conclusions either.
This is not just advice for law enforcement stories. Think of some of the news stories that have turned out very differently than they were presented in the news. I am not passing judgment, defending or promoting any of these people. However, the way the story was presented sure changed how I looked at the person. Think back to Chris Cook of the Minnesota Vikings accused of assault, Robert Blake (Beretta actor) accused of murder and Dominique Strauss-Kahn accused of assault in a New York Hotel. All of these stories seemed like open and shut cases when the media ran the stories. These people were all found not guilty or had the charges dismissed. I’m guessing that even mentioning these names might stir anger, but that is because of how the media presented them. Like most of you, I don’t know any of these people or any facts other than what the TV news people reported to us.
There are times that when all the facts come out and a police officer did something wrong. But just like any other profession, I hope you don’t let the actions of one officer reflect upon the whole profession. Just as you have not lost trust in all Priests, Attorneys and Doctors despite recent criminal convictions in those professions, I would hope that you not lose trust in police officers.