Stop the Press(es)
Thursday, July 9, 1998
Journalists have been working overtime lately to destroy the credibility of their profession, from writers fabricating stories for the New Republic and Boston Globe to a Cincinnati Enquirer reporter illegally breaking into Chiquita''s voice-mail system to just plain sloppy journalism by CNN and Time.
Locally, we have our own media controversy brewing after The Californian and The Monterey County Herald published the list of individuals that Salinas is trying to slap with injunctions preventing these alleged gang members from associating with one another in an East Salinas neighborhood.
Attorneys involved in the case say the publicizing of the list is already starting to present employment and housing problems for their clients, and city officials are also unhappy with the papers.
The editors for both dailies say that it was a matter of public record, so they ran it, plain and simple. One editor even tried to argue that publishing the list helped those on it by exposing this injustice--"The government is attempting to prevent these people from exercising their rights as citizens. It''s important that we let people know the government is doing this, and who it''s being done to"--which is akin to the military arguing, "We have to burn the village to save it."
So with news judgment simplified into "print everything you know," Squid wonders when they''re going to start listing all the people who file for bankruptcy, or who get raped, or who are sued for the myriad white-collar misdeeds that also come through the civil courts. After all, these are public records, too.
More likely, the dailies are just falling into the same anti-crime hysteria that is driving these injunctions, hysteria that also caused The Californian, fearing gang retaliation, to hire security guards for the week following their publication of the list.
Still, I suppose if you''re a landlord or a boss, it would be nice having a list of these alleged gang members in your hand everytime an applicant comes to your door. But wouldn''t it be easier to make the accused wear a yellow armband every time they leave their homes, or maybe a scarlet "G," so landlords wouldn''t have to reference their newspaper clippings? That way, they won''t need their reading glasses with them at all times.
C''mon guys, while all newspaper editors have to make some difficult calls as to what is and is not public interest--and Squid here certainly favors greater public access to information rather than less--they ought to be above publishing blacklists. Let''s not let the fear of crime foster a mob mentality.
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