Paternalistic journalism

Dateline: Tue 14 Nov 2006

Alert reader Ellen Meagher notes that the Star left out an important detail in a Monday story about a Nov. 5 robbery of Jimmy John's fast-food shop in Broad Ripple -- the race of the two suspects.

She compared the Star's story

http://www.indystar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061113/LOCAL/611130442

to the Nov. 13 report from Crime Stopper's:

http://new.crimetips.org/pdf/News%20Releases/061102%20Jimmy%20Johns%20Robbery.pdf

In Crime Stopper's account, we learn that two suspects are Hispanic, a third is black. These facts are every bit as vital as what the Star reported in its description -- the suspects' height, clothing, build, etc. (For God's sake, there was a video as well, which clearly shows two Hispanic guys...)

Star readers have posted messages online in Talk Back, questioning the Star's decision and chastizing editors' judgment. "Flagrant pandering . . . politicially incorrect . . . agenda??"

Meagher adds: How do the police feel about the Star hindering their efforts by omitting vital information, especially since this article is written specifically to catch the criminals and even offers a reward??

Those who are as curious as Meagher -- and as disgusted -- about the Star's slanted reporting may appreciate this shedding of a tiny light: Executive editor Dennis Ryerson once killed a column I wrote because it included the fact that a man who caused a fatal car wreck was Hispanic. The victim of the accident was a popular administrator at the VA Hospital; his widow was a much-loved social worker at Riley Hospital for Children. I (and others who tipped me)found it significant that that the guy who ran the red light at a high rate of speed did not have a valid driver's license, and then immediately skipped town. He was an illegal immigrant from south of the border.

I'll never forget Ryerson's explanation for why he killed the column:

"I don't want to inflame populist sentiment against Hispanics," he told me nervously. (Ryerson often spoke of studies done in California that showed the contributions by illegal aliens outweighed the negatives. In true paternalistic liberal overkill, he simply dismissed any evidence that illegals were human beings e capable of free will and therefore wrong-doing.)

This is not journalism. It is everything Star readers have already called it: racial pandering, agenda-driven and P.C. crapo.

Most of all, it's dishonest. And to add insult to injury, it does a disservice to all readers, Hispanic and non-Hispanic.

comments: ruth@ruthholladay.com

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