Milwaukee Reporter Arrested for Police Car Photos

The Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service said it was “completely unnecessary” to detain reporter Edgar Mendez for two hours for taking photos of squad cars in a police parking lot. The police say he was trespassing.

A Milwaukee journalist working on a story about police response times was arrested after taking photographs of squad cars in a Milwaukee Police Department parking lot, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Edgar Mendez  of Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, was issued a $181 ticket for trespassing but only after being handcuffed, fingerprinted and questioned at a police station. A police spokesman said no-trespassing signs were clearly marked and that Mendez had no press credentials on him when he was pulled over Sunday after leaving the lot.

News Service Editor Sharon McGowan said Mendez’s treatment appeared excessive and that the agency plans to contest the citation. “The whole thing was completely unnecessary,” said McGowan, who asked the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press for assistance. “It was unnecessary for him to be handcuffed at the station. He was fingerprinted and interrogated and detained for more than two hours,” she said. A police spokesman said Mendez’s treatment was “typical” for a trespassing charge. Mendez said he was told that police were on heightened security because of the fatal shooting of officer Michael Michalski. Mendez has been honored for his reporting and columns on the inequitable enforcement of marijuana laws, poverty, homelessness and racism.

from https://thecrimereport.org

MN Sheriff, Small-Town Editor Face Off After Drowning

Larry Dobson says he was doing his job when he made his way to the scene of a drowning on July 17. The local sheriff said the journalist was intruding. The two have been trading barbs over who was right and wrong.

Newspaper publisher Larry Dobson crawled through brush last month to get three photos of Dodge County, Minn., officials investigating the drowning death of a 7-year-old boy, but his newspaper never published the photos. Instead, Dobson, 75, has been thrust into a First Amendment controversy after the sheriff’s office confiscated the memory card from his camera and held onto it for more than a week while Dobson’s actions were scrutinized for possible criminal violations, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The resulting brouhaha has become big news in farm communities west of Rochester, where the publisher of three weeklies and the sheriff have been trading barbs over whose rights may have been trampled in the wake of a small-town tragedy.

In an editorial published July 25, Dobson blasted Sheriff Scott Rose for “spreading lies” and prompting social media attacks aimed at destroying his reputation. “I did nothing wrong, but the sheriff sure did,” Dobson wrote. The sheriff replied with a lengthy rebuttal on the agency’s Facebook page. While saying his office would not charge Dobson, the sheriff maintained that the journalist intruded on a potential crime scene, which was “upsetting to those conducting the highly stressful work of recovering a deceased child, near the child’s family members, while knowing they are being photographed.” The dispute started on July 17, when Dobson traipsed through the woods to get access to a pond where officials were investigating a drowning. The sheriff accused Dobson of “hiding in the brush,” and one of investigators confronted the journalist.

 

 

from https://thecrimereport.org

Ontario Media See Echoes of Trump in Doug Ford

He hasn’t taken to Twitter to rail against the media like Donald Trump, but the government of Doug Ford, one of Canada’s best-known politicians, has been picking a fight with the journalists who cover him, says the Washington Post. Ford, brother of the controversial late Toronto mayor Rob Ford, took office in June as leader of Ontario, Canada’s biggest province. Political reporters in Toronto soon began to notice changes. In a holdover from news conferences on the campaign trail, for […]

He hasn’t taken to Twitter to rail against the media like Donald Trump, but the government of Doug Ford, one of Canada’s best-known politicians, has been picking a fight with the journalists who cover him, says the Washington Post. Ford, brother of the controversial late Toronto mayor Rob Ford, took office in June as leader of Ontario, Canada’s biggest province. Political reporters in Toronto soon began to notice changes. In a holdover from news conferences on the campaign trail, for example, government staff members would suddenly start applauding as the politicians left, drowning out any further questions. Ford’s administration also launched Facebook and Twitter accounts called “Ontario News Now,” featuring taxpayer-funded, TV news-style spots. At the same time, journalists’ access to government officials was curtailed. Among other things, they were roped off 15 feet from government officials during Q&A “scrums” common in the hallways of legislative chambers around the world.

They were told to get in line to ask a question and then speak into a microphone held by a political aide. Questions were cut off after five, and aides yanked the microphone away from any given reporter at will. “Gotta admit, I’m pretty furious about this,” tweeted Jameson Berkow, a Bloomberg News reporter who was photographed at a July 27 news conference as the mic was taken away from him. Things came to head last week when government minister Lisa MacLeod used the term “fake news.” Canada has its own history of strained relations between government and media, especially under the country’s last Conservative prime minister, Stephen Harper. But “fake news” crossed a line, journalists said.

from https://thecrimereport.org

How Paper Found Thousands of Sealed Criminal Cases

The Denver Post found that among thousands of court cases whose files the state had sealed for various reasons, five dozen were felonies in which defendants had been tried, convicted and sentenced, but no records are publicly available.

Last year, reporter David Migoya of the Denver Post was looking into an appeal filed by convicted murderer Aaron Thompson, but could find no mention of the case — either his conviction or the appeal — on any of the public-record computers the state provides for courthouse searches, Migoya writes. He found that the case file had been sealed because it involved child victims. Migoya had never found an entire case file suppressed.

Rather, it was common to find prosecutions and civil cases in which specific documents were suppressed from public view because of the sensitive information they contained: embarrassing details of an assault; personal financial details; illegally obtained confessions or evidence. Migoya found that in the state court system, a single abbreviation, “suppr,” was used to denote that the case was restricted from public access. Migoya asked the state to make a count of any case where the code appeared at any time over the past five years. It took them two weeks, but eventually the newspaper determined that 2,755 criminal case files were sealed over a five-year period. of those, more than five dozen criminal felony cases remain suppressed even though the defendants have been tried, convicted and sentenced, some to lengthy prison terms. The newspaper’s investigation concluded that someone could be arrested, charged, convicted and sentenced for a crime in Colorado without anyone outside of law enforcement ever knowing who, how, why or whether the process was fair.

from https://thecrimereport.org

How Paper Found Thousands of Sealed Criminal Cases

The Denver Post found that among thousands of court cases whose files the state had sealed for various reasons, five dozen were felonies in which defendants had been tried, convicted and sentenced, but no records are publicly available.

Last year, reporter David Migoya of the Denver Post was looking into an appeal filed by convicted murderer Aaron Thompson, but could find no mention of the case — either his conviction or the appeal — on any of the public-record computers the state provides for courthouse searches, Migoya writes. He found that the case file had been sealed because it involved child victims. Migoya had never found an entire case file suppressed.

Rather, it was common to find prosecutions and civil cases in which specific documents were suppressed from public view because of the sensitive information they contained: embarrassing details of an assault; personal financial details; illegally obtained confessions or evidence. Migoya found that in the state court system, a single abbreviation, “suppr,” was used to denote that the case was restricted from public access. Migoya asked the state to make a count of any case where the code appeared at any time over the past five years. It took them two weeks, but eventually the newspaper determined that 2,755 criminal case files were sealed over a five-year period. of those, more than five dozen criminal felony cases remain suppressed even though the defendants have been tried, convicted and sentenced, some to lengthy prison terms. The newspaper’s investigation concluded that someone could be arrested, charged, convicted and sentenced for a crime in Colorado without anyone outside of law enforcement ever knowing who, how, why or whether the process was fair.

from https://thecrimereport.org

L.A. Times Contests Judge’s Order to Edit Story

A federal judge ordered the Los Angeles Times to remove information from an article that described a plea agreement between prosecutors and a Glendale, Ca., police detective accused of working with the Mexican Mafia, a move the newspaper called highly unusual and unconstitutional.

A federal judge ordered the Los Angeles Times to remove information from an article that described a plea agreement between prosecutors and a Glendale, Ca., police detective accused of working with the Mexican Mafia, a move the newspaper called highly unusual and unconstitutional, the Times reports. The agreement was supposed to have been under seal, but it was mistakenly made available on PACER, a public database for federal court documents. In response to the order from U.S. District Judge John Walter, the Times revised the article to eliminate information about the sealed document. The newspaper intends to contest the order. “We believe that once material is in the public record, it is proper and appropriate to publish it if it is newsworthy,” said executive editor Norman Pearlstine.

Times attorney Kelli Sager said the First Amendment includes a strong presumption against government actions that prevent someone from speaking or publishing information. The article was posted Saturday before the judge made his ruling. “Typically, courts take into account if information was already published. Where it is no longer secret, the point of the restraining order is mooted,” Sager said. “To order a publication to claw it back doesn’t even serve the interest that may be intended.” Judge Walter did not explain the justification for demanding that the Times withdraw the article. The detective, John Saro Balian, pleaded guilty on July 12 to lying to federal investigators about his links to organized crime, accepting a bribe, and obstructing justice by tipping off a top criminal target about a planned federal raid. The judge may lack jurisdiction to order the Times to do anything, because the newspaper is not a party to the case and did not appear in his courtroom, said Peter Scheer, former director of the First Amendment Coalition.

from https://thecrimereport.org

NY Times Reporter in Records Case Sent to NYC

In an apparent demotion, Ali Watkins, the New York Times federal law enforcement reporter whose email and phone records were secretly seized by the Trump administration, will be transferred out of the newspaper’s Washington, D.C., bureau and reassigned in New York City.

In an apparent demotion, Ali Watkins, the New York Times federal law enforcement reporter whose email and phone records were secretly seized by the Trump administration, will be transferred out of the newspaper’s Washington, D.C., bureau and reassigned in New York City, The Times said. Watkins, 26, had been the subject of an internal review by the Times after revelations that she had a three-year affair with staffer James Wolfe of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which she covered for several news organizations before joining the Times in December. Wolfe, 57, who handled classified material, was arrested last month as part of a leak investigation in which the Justice Department also seized Watkins’s communications, an unusually aggressive move against a journalist that prompted an outcry from press advocates.

Wolfe was charged with lying to the F.B.I. but not with leaking classified information. Watkins will be assigned a mentor and moved to a new beat “for a fresh start,” said Dean Baquet, the paper’s executive editor. “We hold our journalists and their work to the highest standards,” Baquet said. “We are giving Ali an opportunity to show that she can live up to them. I believe she can.” The story of Watkins’s affair rattled journalists and raised questions about prosecutorial overreach and journalistic ethics. Baquet said that, “As an institution, we abhor the actions of the government in this case …  other Times journalists have noticed sources “clamming up because of this assault of on how we do our jobs.” As for Watkins, Baquet said, “For a reporter to have an intimate relationship with someone he or she covers is unacceptable.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Should the Media Limit Coverage of Mass Shooters?

“When someone is desperate for fame or attention, committing a high-profile mass killing is one of the only guaranteed ways to get it,” criminologist Adam Lankford told a recent gathering of journalists. Responsible media, he argued, should guard against providing killers with a platform.

In the nearly two decades since two students committed a massacre at Colorado’s Columbine High School, the news media have done extensive reporting on a long series of shooters at other schools and elsewhere.

More experts and victims are concluding that enough is enough, citing a growing body of evidence citing mass shooters who have said that a major goal of their acts is to achieve fame via news reports.

In an unusual session, one of the chief media critics, criminologist Adam Lankford of the University of Alabama, was invited to make his case last week to a major organization of journalists. He got a sympathetic reaction.

Last year, Lankford co-edited an issue of the journal American Behavioral Scientist titled “Media Coverage of Mass Killers: Content, Consequences, and Solutions.”

In it, academics and others argue that the media should be more careful about covering mass shooters.

“When someone is desperate for fame or attention,” Lankford says, “committing a high-profile mass killing is one of the only guaranteed ways to get it. In many cases, winning a Super Bowl or Academy Award garners less media attention than committing one of these crimes.”

Last fall, 149 academics joined in an open letter urging media organizations not to name or use photos of mass shooters, “stop using the names, photos, or likenesses of past perpetrators (and) report everything else about these crimes in as much detail as desired.”

In last week’s panel discussion at the annual convention of Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), University of Missouri journalism Prof. Katherine Reed, herself a former journalist, worried that the media “may be making celebrities” out of mass killers, encouraging others to copy them.

Lankford quoted a series of shooters who indicated in statements made before their crimes that they were either “attention-seekers or copycats.”

Included was the shooter of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), who said, “I’ll see you on national TV,” and the killer at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub massacre, who called the local TV outlet News 13 during his attack and then checked online to see if he had “gone viral.”

The Parkland shooter said, “When you see me on the news, you’ll all know who I am,” and the Santa Fe, Tx., school shooter explained that he wanted to “have his story told.”

It isn’t only a matter of seeking fame, Lankford said. By doing stories about each event that focus on how many people were killed in comparison with previous episodes, the media are encouraging shooters to set new records, he maintained.

The shooter in February in a Parkland, Fl., high school, for example, said that his goal was to kill at least 20 people. (He got close, killing 17.)

Lankford does not flatly contend that media should never give a shooter’s name, but he offered an option that the name be mentioned only in an initial story and not be reported in follow-up stories. “How often does the public need this information?” he asked at the meeting with journalists.

Media organizations should not be expected to suppress shooters’ names, Lankford said, but he suggested that after reporting on the initial shooting, media outlets might confine information about the shooter to one page of their websites and not repeatedly mention it in follow-up stories.

Dawn Clapperton, senior producer for investigations at WTVJ, the NBC television affiliate in Miami, which covered the Parkland shooting, said that the station’s staff has had internal discussions about taking care to use appropriate words in describing mass shootings and showing sensitivity to victims in covering such events.

Clapperton said her station decided to use the word “massacre” sparingly, for example.

Lisa Cianci, news content director at the Orlando Sentinel, led coverage of the Pulse nightclub shooting in which 49 were killed. The coverage was intensive, with 48 stories in the first 24 hours after the event, covering nine pages in print. The newspaper also produced 26 videos.

The newspaper “kept the victims in the forefront,” writing obituaries on each of them, Cianci said, and did not show the shooter’s photo on its front page.

Lankford contends that important details about a mass shooting, including who
committed the attack (age, sex, race, religion, background, mental health, criminal record, behavior, etc.) does not require publishing the perpetrator’s name or face.

He contends that limiting identification of the shooter is consistent with the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics, which calls on media to “balance the public’s need for information against potential harms” and to avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.”

Lankford says that “denying mass shooters de facto celebrity status and
widespread fame does not require keeping their names completely confidential.”

He notes that the names of shooters still will be a matter of public record and widely known, including by witnesses, families, and local community members.

One unofficial experiment took place this year in after a Kentucky school shooting, when the news media withheld the offender’s name for several weeks because he was only 15 years old.

tabloids

Tabloids cover mass shootings. Photo by scleroplex via Flickr

Lankford contends that the absence of a name “didn’t limit the depth or quality of coverage,” He says that some news outlets ran video footage of his arrest (in which his face was blurred out) and interviews of classmates who described his personality and behavior in detail.

No media representative offered a detailed rebuttal of Lankford at the journalists’ discussion last week, but Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute has contended that it is legitimate for the media to name mass shooters.

McBride says that, “When you name an individual and tell his story, you give people important context for the backstory,” and that “knowing who was behind the gun allows us to identify trends,” such as that most mass acts of violence have been committed by young white males.”

Naming the shooter also can prevent misinformation, she says, recalling that after the 2012 Newton, Ct., school shooting, some media outlets misidentified the shooter as his brother.

Ted Gest is president of Criminal Justice Journalists and Washington bureau chief of The Crime Report. He welcomes readers’ comments.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Murder Mania: American Women Are Dying for True Crime TV

Investigation Discovery, launched 10 years ago, has monopolized the market on the true crime genre, becoming one of the most popular channels on cable TV. Over the last several years, ID has consistently been the most-watched cable network among women aged 25 to 54.

Kevin Fallon of the Daily Beats examines America’s mania for true crime TV shows. Since launching in 2008, Investigation Discovery has monopolized the market on the true crime genre, becoming one of the most popular channels on cable TV. HBO scored with The Jinx, and Netflix’s Making a Murderer was huge. But no other channel has made it its 24/7 mission to devote its entire lineup to crime and justice. With shows like Fear Thy Neighbor, Murder Chose Me, and The Killer Beside Me, the network is tapping into some morbid fascination in viewers—and not necessarily the viewers you might think. Over the last several years, Investigation Discovery has consistently been the most-watched cable network among women aged 25 to 54. Not Lifetime, not the Hallmark Channel, not HGTV. The network that exclusively airs true crime content. The murder network.

With cable viewership on the decline, it’s the only cable network launched in the last 10 years to rank in the top 20 in year-end ratings. Last year, it climbed to 12th place. According to the Los Angeles Times, Lady Gaga, Serena Williams and Nicki Minaj are fans. It is also the network with the longest length of viewer tune-in, meaning that people watch this stuff all day long without changing the channel. And with the network producing upwards of 650 hours of true-crime content each year, it’s a reliable destination. As the network becomes more popular, it’s starting to attract top talent in the documentary and journalism spheres.

from https://thecrimereport.org

AL Town Backs Down on Closing Meetings to Outsiders

The mayor of tiny Paint Rock said council meetings were being closed to the media and all other non-residents, saying, “What goes on in Paint Rock is the business of the people who live in Paint Rock.” She changed her mind after she learned that such a move would be illegal–and unAmerican.

In what most cases would not be considered newsworthy, the Town of Paint Rock, Ala., held a regularly scheduled town council meeting Tuesday evening – and the gathering was open to the press and public. The town of 200 got national attention this week when the Jackson County, Ala., Sentinel reported that the council in the town 20 miles east of Huntsville had proposed closing its meetings to the media and non-residents and barring distribution of minutes and financial documents. Mayor Brenda Fisk said the meetings are not the business of outsiders. “What goes on in Paint Rock is the business of the people who live in Paint Rock,” she said. “I really don’t see the benefit for anyone outside of Paint Rock or who doesn’t own property here to come to these meetings.”

Fisk changed her tune after the Associated Press reported that her proposal contradicts the Alabama Open Meetings Act, and AL.com’s John Archibald wrote about the proposal in a column headlined, “Paint Rock, Alabama: The most unAmerican town?” She said she proposed the guidelines in January, but they were never approved. She said she was reacting to a media frenzy that ensued when Paint Rock moved to shutter their small police department. “It’s on me,” Fisk said. “I did it all. Nobody has approved anything. It is not policy.”

from https://thecrimereport.org