English is a gun metaphor, “full of”.Let’s stop using them


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It’s the journalist’s job to be skeptical of sources, but not always if they are police.

A police body camera video shows that Adam Toledo’s hand was raised just before it was shot. The death of Chicago Police Department 13-year-old Adam Toledo via AP could have become an international headline on March 29, 2021, the day he was shot dead by police officers, if the new story was different. Hmm. Instead, early news coverage of the incident relied on police statements stating that Toledo had died in an “armed clash.” Images of guns recovered at the scene have also been released. At a man’s bond hearing with Toledo when the chase began, prosecutors said the gun was in Toledo’s hands when police shot and killed Toledo. The body camera footage, which was fully released two weeks later, now casts doubt on the accuracy of the story. A short video clip shows a chase that ends with Toledo raising his arm and turning his body towards the policeman. There is no gun in his hand when the shot is fired. Since then, Cook County law firms have stated that they “couldn’t fully inform themselves” before the prosecutor spoke. Others have gone further by saying that the prosecutor lied. In any case, the body camera footage shifted the story. Protesters go out to the streets of Chicago. Jacek Boczarski / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images As a scholar studying police and media coverage of protests, I believe Toledo’s death exposes a blind spot in journalism. Unreliable source? Journalists are responsible for quickly drafting the first draft of history. To do this, the profession has routines and norms that help create news in a systematic way. Breaking news reporters often rely on explanations and statements from official sources. This often includes stories and statements presented by official sources (politicians, police, official spokespersons). These are the people that journalists may work with on a regular basis. It is often more accessible under deadline pressure, especially if the victim’s friends and family are difficult to reach or are less willing to talk to the press. And even if officials say something wrong or defamatory, journalists can often report what they say, legally exempt. All of this gives the police the opportunity to shape the first version of the event-and it incorporates the story of their version into public awareness before the victims, families and their supporters can. However, they often do so in a way that is incomplete, misleading, or presented for strategic reasons. Official statements may withhold or omit information, whether intentionally or not. In the case of Toledo, the first statement given to the media on the day of the shooting stated that “one armed criminal” and “male” had fled the police and a “conflict” had occurred. “The policeman fired his weapon to attack the criminal in the chest.” It is not mentioned that the gun was thrown and Toledo appeared to be raising his hand, as it appeared later. The incident report described Toledo as “John Doe” between the ages of 18 and 25, so it was not possible to reveal that Toledo was a child. Similarly, on May 26, 2020, the day after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, city police issued a statement to the media with the subject “A person died in a medical accident while interacting with the police.” It said the “suspect” died after “physically resisting” and “suffering from medical distress.” Police officers did not say that Floyd was kneeling around his neck and fixed to the ground for more than nine minutes. Just a few months ago, police officers did not include important details in a police case report recording Breona Taylor’s 2020 death in Louisville, Kentucky. It listed her injuries as “none”, suggesting that there was no forced entry into her building. In fact, a battering ram was used and Taylor was shot multiple times. And in June 2020, when a 75-year-old man broke his skull while protesting police atrocities in Buffalo, the first official reaction was that he “stumbled and fell.” A video quickly spread showing that he was pushed into the group by police with riot equipment. In the Buffalo case, the police story was quickly and easily countered. It took place in front of witnesses, including journalists, some of whom took videos. In the case of Toledo, it can take some time to figure out exactly what happened if the incident was away from the bystander’s cell phone. Victim Story Police usually do not release body camera footage immediately. Most footage is categorized for several weeks for internal investigation before it is released to the public. By that time, the public may have already been given a story about what happened and the background of the people involved. Journalists have been criticized for relying on the police to tell the victims too quickly. As a result, the general public tends to know more about the criminal record of victims and their families than the history of police officers who shot them, especially immediately after the incident. I recently analyzed media coverage of Steven Clark’s 2018 posthumous protest, which had a cell phone when police shot him in his grandmother’s backyard. People near Clark, like his family and friends, were not the primary source of information about Clark’s character in the press. Instead, in the six months of news coverage analyzed, news articles most often relied on police accounts and records that profiled Clark in a stereotyped and stigmatized way. They were helped by a district attorney who released a personal text message and internet search from Clark. And it detailed the difficulties of the relationship and the obvious suicidal ideation. “Journalism Failure” Reporters and editors are now talking about the issue after frequently presenting incomplete, misleading, or completely wrong police reports as facts. It is worth noting that journalists were among the most critical of the media’s reaction to Toledo’s murder. “That’s why journalists have to stop reporting law enforcement accounts as facts,” tweeted Nicole Hannah Jones of the New York Times. Chris Geidner, secretary-general of The Appeal, a media site on law and criminal justice, added: At best, the police should be treated as one source of the story, an unreliable narrator in cases such as police shooting, and therefore not enough to establish the story. This fits into a broader media reassessment of policies and practices that traditionally misrepresent colored races and misrepresent them. This includes initiatives to diversify the long-established newsrooms that have underestimated colored races. And that comes when broader public confidence in the police is waning. A Gallup survey in August 2020 found that confidence in police had fallen to its lowest level since the survey began recording the problem in 1993. Only 48% of respondents said they had great confidence in the police. Similarly, confidence in the media has reached a new lowest level. [Get the best of The Conversation, every weekend. Sign up for our weekly newsletter.] Treating police sources with necessary and appropriate skepticism provides the news audience with a more complete picture of incidents such as police shootings, a process that prioritizes some voices over others. It can be confusing. And that’s not the basic idea. Information questioning and verification has always been part of the journalist’s job. This article has been republished by The Conversation, a non-profit news site aimed at sharing ideas from academic experts. It was written by Daniel K. Kirgo of the University of Minnesota. Read more: After George Floyd’s death, smartphone sightings become synonymous with black patriotism Body camera footage works for Daniel K. Kirgo, consults, owns shares, this article Why don’t you get money from companies or organizations that benefit from? And it does not disclose relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.