ROBERT TRACINSKI: Dear Media: How Not to Screw Up the Next Ferguson.
I hate to say, “I told you so.” No, really, I hate it. The city of Ferguson, Missouri, is in flames yet again as angry mobs—largely composed of outside agitators—vent their rage against “the system” after a grand jury refused to indict a white police officer for shooting a young black man. All of that destruction could have been prevented if the media knew its own business and didn’t need constant reminders from people like me about how to report on the use of deadly force.
Specifically, I warned them about Zimmerman Amnesia, the dogged failure to learn from the media’s mistakes in reporting previous cases. . . .
The early reports were very clear that Michael Brown was a good, kind-hearted young man bound for college, that the shooting was totally unprovoked, that he was shot multiple times in the back, that he was executed in cold blood. Then the evidence, as it emerged, knocked down each of these claims one by one.
Cases involving the use of force tend to be messy, and getting at the facts is difficult. It requires a lot of sorting of competing claims, cross-examination and confrontation of witnesses, and a thorough review of the physical evidence, which often refutes the eyewitness testimony.
Two things: (1) They don’t want to do the work; and (2) They don’t mind peddling falsehoods so long as those falsehoods inflame the right people.