Didn’t you guys start to talk yesterday about how to report race in crime stories? This is the rule I’ve always followed, which may or may not be the rule anymore. I’ve been gone from institutional daily journalism a long time.
The rule is: Don’t report race unless it’s important to the story, which can vary. When a suspect is at large and might be a threat to others, someone another person might see and report to police, by all means do so. The problem comes when the description is something impossibly vague like “a white man wearing blue jeans” or “a black man of medium height.” In the case of the two Grosse Pointe girls who were robbed, the description was pretty thorough, and included height and weight, clothing and, yes, race. The guy was armed and had escaped into the neighborhood. Totally defensible to use his color in the story.
Otherwise, if you wouldn’t write that someone was robbed by a person with red hair, I leave it out.
Others don’t follow the same rules. Our weekly newspaper here will sometimes write, for instance, “The 16-year-old was released to his 32-year-old mother.” Ooh, very subtle, just in case you didn’t catch on to the fact the perp was, how you say, not from around here. The worst of all was when they transcribed the written confession of a teenage female car thief, semiliterate spelling, fractured usage and all. It was repulsive, but I’m sure their readership got a real yuk out of it.
Meanwhile, here was the story TV did.
I can’t tell you how much I despise this sort of thing — the stupid hand gestures, the weird delivery, everything, including the obligatory exchange with the anchor at the end, which might as well run:
“Now I am asking you a question we both already know the answer to, in an effort to show you have deep knowledge of this situation.”
“And I am answering, both of us fully aware I’ve never set foot in this place in my life.”
Every crime story about this place has to talk about how peaceful it is, how unexpected the crime is, and of course, how the sucking maw of Detroit lurks just around the corner. It’s our cow picture, the cow picture being the standard photo of Columbus that ran for years with every single national-media story about how the city was starting to really come on strong. There’s a place at the end of the street where I grew up, where Ohio State University has some farm fields for the ag school. Sometimes they graze dairy cattle there, and when the air is clear, you can sometimes catch a nice pic of a cow in the foreground and the city’s skyline behind.
The cow picture. Because Columbus is shedding its cowtown image! Get it?
Oh, well. Moving on.
Anyone heard of Art Prize? It’s a festival held every year in Grand Rapids, where public art is installed all over the city for a few weeks, and the public votes on it. I’ve never been, and honestly, when I first heard about it, I imagined a lot of earnest crap and/or hostile Richard Serra stuff.
Looks like I was wrong. I love the taxidermy piece, and of course the wooden bicycle. Might be worth a road trip.
Time for bed. Hope your day was fine. Mine was busy.