Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Mini crime spree - where is the reporting?

(A bit of a deviation from normal PR topics)

It's Wednesday and in just three days, Southern California already has seen a month's worth of sensational stories of murder and mayhem.

But does anyone care?

Not that I need more or have some dark desire for grisly stuff, but as a former crimes reporter, I'm dismayed by the lack of solid crime journalism. This would be the everyday, basic police-beat reporting that is designed to give the public a sense of the unusual. This is the kind of news that should be important to us because we should treat life with greater respect. Especially when innocent people are gunned down in our streets.

Yet, through lazy journalism, budget cuts and misdirected priorities, we're seeing the kind of news that should shock us - crime - being supplanted by another kind of sensational news - celebrities.

I partly blame careless journalism for this devolution of sensitivities. Case in point:

A "good Samaritan" was shot dead on Halloween in Santa Clarita trying to intervene in a midday robbery in a parking lot. Basic police reporting calls for going to the scene, tracking down family and acquaintances, getting cops to talk on background (which can be done by veteran copy reporters who had developed a relationship with the cops), and more. Reporters need to describe the scene so we get a clear picture of the horror that unfolded. Why do this? Because a two-paragraph release from authorities is very skimpy on details. The public deserves to know the details because murders are supposed to be unusual and shocking.

But was any of this kind of reporting done? The majority of news organizations failed. One exception was the Daily News (my former paper), but this good reporting is only available in the print edition. Sadly, most people only get their stories online via blog links, searches.

Meanwhile, top stories on local TV are about, what else, celebrity divorces, celebrity probation violations, promos for network shows...

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