How Cleveland.com Respects ‘Right to be Forgotten’

Cleveland.com editor Chris Quinn has changed the site’s policy of automatically using mugshots (“the worst photos people will ever take”) with minor crime stories. It no longer names perpetrators of minor crimes. The site is also launching an effort to review individuals’ requests to remove their names from old stories.

When you hear “right to be forgotten,” you may think of the European Union, where right-to-be-forgotten regulations allow nearly anyone to ask Google to take down search results they don’t like. The result is a clash between free speech, the public’s right to know, and privacy. Must everything be preserved on the internet forever? If you commit a minor, dumb crime when you’re young, is it fair for articles about that crime to pop to the top of the Google results when a prospective employer searches your name for the rest of your life? The old newspaper standard is: Never change anything that’s true; news values come first. In 2018, it’s clear that standard isn’t exactly working; a brief item on Page A17 in one day’s print newspaper doesn’t have the same sort of impact as a permanent digital record, reports Nieman Lab. Chris Quinn, the editor and president of Cleveland.com/Advance Ohio, is an example of a journalist who is not an absolutist. “It really comes down to: How long does somebody have to pay for a mistake?” said Quinn, who has worked in newsrooms for over 40 years. He’s leading the charge to make newsrooms more compassionate through a unique take on the concept of the right to be forgotten.

Quinn has changed Cleveland.com’s policy of automatically using mugshots (“the worst photos people will ever take”) with minor crime stories. It no longer names perpetrators of minor crimes. Cleveland.com is also launching an effort to review individual’s requests to remove their names from old stories. (Similar efforts have taken place at outlets like the New Haven Independent.) It’s a process that starts from a place of compassion, abandons the idea of doing things just because they’ve always been done that way, and injects nuance throughout a newspaper’s editorial decisions. 

from https://thecrimereport.org

How Cleveland.com Respects ‘Right to be Forgotten’

Cleveland.com editor Chris Quinn has changed the site’s policy of automatically using mugshots (“the worst photos people will ever take”) with minor crime stories. It no longer names perpetrators of minor crimes. The site is also launching an effort to review individuals’ requests to remove their names from old stories.

When you hear “right to be forgotten,” you may think of the European Union, where right-to-be-forgotten regulations allow nearly anyone to ask Google to take down search results they don’t like. The result is a clash between free speech, the public’s right to know, and privacy. Must everything be preserved on the internet forever? If you commit a minor, dumb crime when you’re young, is it fair for articles about that crime to pop to the top of the Google results when a prospective employer searches your name for the rest of your life? The old newspaper standard is: Never change anything that’s true; news values come first. In 2018, it’s clear that standard isn’t exactly working; a brief item on Page A17 in one day’s print newspaper doesn’t have the same sort of impact as a permanent digital record, reports Nieman Lab. Chris Quinn, the editor and president of Cleveland.com/Advance Ohio, is an example of a journalist who is not an absolutist. “It really comes down to: How long does somebody have to pay for a mistake?” said Quinn, who has worked in newsrooms for over 40 years. He’s leading the charge to make newsrooms more compassionate through a unique take on the concept of the right to be forgotten.

Quinn has changed Cleveland.com’s policy of automatically using mugshots (“the worst photos people will ever take”) with minor crime stories. It no longer names perpetrators of minor crimes. Cleveland.com is also launching an effort to review individual’s requests to remove their names from old stories. (Similar efforts have taken place at outlets like the New Haven Independent.) It’s a process that starts from a place of compassion, abandons the idea of doing things just because they’ve always been done that way, and injects nuance throughout a newspaper’s editorial decisions. 

from https://thecrimereport.org

Ex-Sheriff Joe Arpaio Sues NY Times for Libel

Arpaio claims an opinion piece by Michelle Cottle includes “false, defamatory factual assertions” that will hurt his 2020 campaign for the late Sen. John McCain’s seat.

Former Maricopa, Az., Sheriff Joe Arpaio filed a libel suit against the New York Times and a member of its editorial board, Politico reports. In a complaint filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the ex-lawman takes issue with a Times opinion piece published after Arpaio’s loss in the state’s Republican primary for U.S. Senate. The article by Michelle Cottle was headlined, “Well, at Least Sheriff Joe Isn’t Going to Congress: Arpaio’s loss in Arizona’s Senate Republican primary is a fitting end to the public life of a truly sadistic man.” Arpaio argues that the piece “contains several false, defamatory factual assertions.” He says claims in the article were “carefully and maliciously calculated to damage and injure” his reputation among the law enforcement community, as well as among GOP donors who could help bankroll his 2020 run for the late Sen. John McCain’s seat, currently held by Sen. Jon Kyl.

Arpaio seeks $147.5 million in damages from Cottle and the Times, as well as his attorneys’ fees and costs. He is represented by Larry Klayman of the conservative watchdog group Freedom Watch. Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy said, “We intend to vigorously defend against the lawsuit.” Before running for the Senate, Arpaio was known for his strong anti-immigration stance, as well as allegations of professional misconduct. He was convicted of contempt of court in July 2017 but was pardoned by President Trump the next month.

from https://thecrimereport.org

New ‘Serial’ Series Enters Saturated True-Crime Field

Will the podcast’s newest endeavor be heard above the noise? “There are a lot of reporters, there are a lot of researchers, there are a lot of people who have been banging this drum for a while, wanting to talk about the criminal justice system,” co-creator Julie Snyder says.

During the year Sarah Koenig spent embedded in Cleveland’s Justice Center Complex for the new season of “Serial,” a few employees on separate occasions mistook her for a student journalist and asked what school she attended, the Washington Post reports. Even the bellwether of the criminal-justice podcasting world doesn’t get recognized in a courthouse. “Serial” has been downloaded more than 340 million times since it launched in 2014 with Koenig leading its serialized exploration of whether Baltimore County high-schooler Adnan Syed was rightfully convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend. The podcast electrified the medium, becoming the first to win a Peabody Award.

It also exposed an appetite for true crime stories that has been satiated by a growing number of podcasts: “S-Town” and “Crimetown,” “Missing and Murdered” and “My Favorite Murder,” “Wine and Crime” and “White Wine True Crime!” On Thursday, it is in this saturated true-crime environment that the show releases Season 3, in which  Koenig and reporter Emmanuel Dzotsi tackle the criminal justice system by presenting multiple Cleveland cases, each allotted one to three episodes. Will the podcast’s newest endeavor be heard above the noise? “There are a lot of reporters, there are a lot of researchers, there are a lot of people who have been banging this drum for a while, wanting to talk about the criminal justice system,” co-creator Julie Snyder says. This season will go into every corner of the courthouse, from one attorney seeking advice from another in the middle of a hallway to Koenig’s conference-room tete-a-tetes with the defense. The show is more concerned with the aftermath and implications of crimes than the actual actions: “A lot of times, you need to move past the idea of innocent and guilt and who did it,” Snyder says. “I want to talk about the people who are actually affected by it.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Does ‘Rape Culture’ in the Media Fuel a Permissive Climate for Sex Crimes?

Biased or unsympathetic press treatment of victims is a good predictor of a high incidence of rape, according to researchers who analyzed coverage of 310,000 cases between 2000 and 2013. It also influences police to make fewer arrests , they claimed.

Rape is more common in areas where “rape culture” persists in the media, according to a new study published in the Quarterly Journal of Political Science.

Matthew Baum and Dara Cohen of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, and Yuri Zhukov of the University of Michigan analyzed coverage of 310,000 sex crime-related articles published in 279 newspapers from 2000 to 2013.

They specifically examined how often these outlets published stories about rape, and if the stories showed evidence of what they termed “rape culture”—language that include blaming the victim, showing empathy for perpetrators, implying consent, and questioning the victim’s credibility.

Drawing on law enforcement records, the researchers found that rape incidents are more prominent in areas where the local press fosters less sympathetic attitudes towards victims. They did not appear to examine broadcast or online media.

“Does rape culture predict rape? In a word, yes,” wrote the authors.

“We find that where there is more rape culture in the press, there is more rape. In areas with more prevalent rape culture in the press, police receive more frequent reports of rape, but make fewer arrests in response.”

Moreover, they added, law enforcement in those areas make fewer arrests—and offenders are more likely to offend, and victims are less likely to report because they believe police officers, too, hold rape culture ideologies and thus would be less likely to pursue arrests.

The study found the most egregious evidence of rape culture in in counties in Minnesota, North Carolina, California, Iowa..

The authors argue that evidence of rape culture in the local news is a reflection of the community’s negative perception of sexual assault victims, and the study confirms assertions that some social norms can deter or even enable sexual violence.

“Our research can potentially help journalists and editors uncover implicit biases in their work, allow policymakers to gauge police responsiveness, activists to devise methods to reduce or mitigate sexual crime, and scholars to systematically investigate the causes and consequences of rape,” the authors write.

The authors write that though rape culture is a contributing factor, it does not completely explain differences in the incidence of rape across counties. Furthermore, only about 3 percent of the news articles analyzed contain any of the four components of rape culture, with the most common component being victim-blaming.

“That rape culture correlates with increases in documented rape cases reveals little about the direction of the relationship,” the authors observed. “Journalists may simply be less sensitive where rape is more common, or some other, unobserved factor may drive both local news content and sexual violence.”

The researchers argued that the media’s passive or hostile attitude towards rape cases was also a consequence of their commercial interests.

“If local news coverage of rape systematically features victim-blaming language, empathy for the accused, implications of consent, and incredulity toward victims, we can reasonably interpret such content as a noisy indicator of attitudes that local news consumers and journalists find normatively acceptable and commercially viable,” they wrote.

But they also warned against “over-interpreting” their findings.

“Our empirical strategy shows that rape culture in the media is a reliable local predictor of sexual crime, but these estimates do not represent a causal effect,” they wrote.

A copy of the study can be purchased here.

J. Gabriel Ware is a TCR news intern. Readers’ comments are welcomed.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Cleveland Paper Deletes Names When Judge Seals Record

The Cleveland Plain Dealer is expanding its “right-to-be-forgotten” experiment, in which it has removed the names of five people from stories on its cleveland.com website about minor crimes they committed. “People should not have to pay for a mistake for the rest of their lives,” says Editor Chris Quinn.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer is expanding its “right-to-be-forgotten” experiment, in which it has removed the names of five people from stories on its cleveland.com website about minor crimes they committed. One was someone in the health field who stole drugs from her employer. A judge eventually declared that she had completely rehabilitated herself. He sealed records of her crime so she could move on with her life. As she sought to begin a new career, any Google search of her name brought up our stories about her crime, along with her mug shot. Another was a man who stole some scrap metal years ago, completed his sentence and had his record sealed.

“People should not have to pay for a mistake for the rest of their lives,” wrote Editor Chris Quinn. Cleveland.com content appears high in search engines, meaning that if  a story about a minor crime often would be the first thing to appear in searches of a name. For the last two months, the newspaper has removed names from stories if the records of the crimes had been sealed by a judge and did not involve violence, sex crimes or public corruption. The paper has heard from people whose embarrassing stories were not based in the courts, or they were people who were peripheral to a crime story and never charged. No record existed for a judge to seal. Now, the newspaper is setting up a committee to consider requests for removing names from stories where search engines can find them. A committee is warranted because “we want to form a consensus with multiple viewpoints,” Quinn said.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Texas Justice Reporter Ward Quits Over Sources

Mike Ward, Austin, Tx., bureau chief of the Houston Chronicle, many of whose criminal justice stories have been featured in Crime & Justice News, has resigned after some of his sources were questioned.

Mike Ward, Austin, Tx., bureau chief of the Houston Chronicle, many of whose criminal justice stories have been featured in Crime & Justice News, has resigned after some of his sources were questioned, writes Chronicle executive editor Nancy Barnes. Ward joined the Chronicle in 2014 after a long career with the Austin American-Statesman. Questions were raised about whether individuals quoted in one of his stories were real people. Chronicle researchers had difficulty finding a number of sources cited in Ward’s most recent reports, Barnes said.

Ward insisted that his work was truthful, that his work involved real people, and that we would eventually find the individuals behind his “man-on-the-street” interviews. However, given the questions this review raised, resigned last week. Barnes said, “We have hired an independent, highly respected journalist to review Ward’s work for the last year, or further, if necessary, and determine whether any reporting transgressions occurred.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Texas Justice Reporter Ward Quits Over Sources

Mike Ward, Austin, Tx., bureau chief of the Houston Chronicle, many of whose criminal justice stories have been featured in Crime & Justice News, has resigned after some of his sources were questioned.

Mike Ward, Austin, Tx., bureau chief of the Houston Chronicle, many of whose criminal justice stories have been featured in Crime & Justice News, has resigned after some of his sources were questioned, writes Chronicle executive editor Nancy Barnes. Ward joined the Chronicle in 2014 after a long career with the Austin American-Statesman. Questions were raised about whether individuals quoted in one of his stories were real people. Chronicle researchers had difficulty finding a number of sources cited in Ward’s most recent reports, Barnes said.

Ward insisted that his work was truthful, that his work involved real people, and that we would eventually find the individuals behind his “man-on-the-street” interviews. However, given the questions this review raised, resigned last week. Barnes said, “We have hired an independent, highly respected journalist to review Ward’s work for the last year, or further, if necessary, and determine whether any reporting transgressions occurred.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

‘Serial’ Focuses on ‘Ordinary Cases’ in Cleveland

The third season of the popular “Serial” podcast will take on the criminal justice system through episodes that examine everyday court cases in Cleveland when it launches this month. Host Sarah Koenig says the criminal justice system can’t be understood by analyzing just one extraordinary case.

The third season of the popular “Serial” podcast will take on the criminal justice system through episodes that examine everyday court cases in Cleveland when it launches this month, the Baltimore Sun reports. In a trailer on the podcast’s website, host Sarah Koenig said that ever since the first season of “Serial,” which revisited a high school student’s murder and the conviction of her former boyfriend, people have asked her what that case says about the criminal justice system. The new season will to take listeners inside a Cleveland criminal courthouse, where Koenig and her team spent a year documenting day-to-day cases. “I don’t think we can understand how the criminal justice system works by interrogating one extraordinary case,” she said. “Ordinary cases are where we need to look.”

Speculation about the possibility of a third season of “Serial” began in 2016, when Koenig was spotted with a producer sitting in on trials in Cleveland. They chose the city because they were allowed to record everywhere, from the courtrooms to the judges’ chambers, Koenig said. She mentioned one of the ordinary cases she witnessed, in which a man was facing decades of jail time for an alleged mugging. “Inside this regular prosecution I’d seen a litany of things that shouldn’t be allowed,” Koenig said. “It was like a checklist of almost all the stuff reformers complain about: extra charges loaded onto a case, pressure to plead, shabby police work, a police officer possibly lying on the stand, 11th-hour evidence shoehorned into a trial, overworked attorneys, dozing jurors, dozing judge and finally an outsized prison sentence. But no one was stomping their feet too hard about any of that.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

‘Don’t Mistake Punishment for Justice’

A journalist whose brother was sent to prison for murder recounts the long-term impact on his family and community in “My Brother Moochie.” In a conversation with TCR about his book, Issac Bailey explains how the experience informed his own perspective about race and incarceration in the American South.

my brother moochieWhen Issac J. Bailey was nine, he watched his brother taken away in handcuffs for the crime of murder. Now a veteran journalist, Bailey explored the mixed feelings of guilt and shame experienced by his family in My Brother Moochie, a very personal account of the long-term impact of incarceration in the racially polarized climate of the American South.

In a conversation with The Crime Report, Bailey, a 2014 Nieman Fellow at Harvard and a veteran reporter at the Sun News in Myrtle Beach, S.C. whose work has been published in Vice, Politico, and the Washington Post, discusses what it was like to grow up with a brother he saw as a “hero” behind bars for a heinous crime, what the experience revealed about the distrust between black communities and police in America, and why he subtitled his book, “Regaining Dignity in the Face of Crime, Poverty and Racism in the American South.”

The Crime Report: You talk about the pressure black people face in America, and not wanting to validate stereotypes when you or someone you care about in the black community commits a crime or does something that’s reprehensible. That sounds like a difficult thing to constantly have to deal with

Issac Bailey: It’s a huge piece of it, and what it does, is it constantly shames you.  I’ve been a journalist for the past 20 years, and have actually written for white, conservative audiences. What made it even more difficult is when I’m trying to humanize characters who do awful things, one pushback that I get is this idea that black people are more violent, and therefore we should be in prison more, etc.  Some of them have brought up my own families’ problems, and that stings.  So that’s been one of the reasons why it has been so difficult to try to shake some of this black shame.

TCR: Your brother Moochie faced decades of prison time, can you talk about his experience in jail, things he and other inmates face in jail, how he stayed mentally healthy, and how he coped?

Bailey: One of the things that stood out to me first, when initially during his sentence we were still young and still visiting every weekend and the holidays, he mentioned having to stuff things under his doors just to keep the rats out of his cell. He actually talked about how he would do anything necessary not to get raped, but at the same time he wouldn’t carry a shank because he said it would be too tempting to use it. He said there were constant physical threats daily.

For him, though, the mental part was even more difficult, especially when he had to spend seven years in solitary. He became a new person in prison; he actually came to see himself as a kind of African warrior. Stuff like that helped him to serve those decades in prison. Also, lots of reading and meditation helped him to try to hold on to some of his sanity.

TCR: Can you elaborate on his time in solitary?

Bailey: Once he became a Rasta he grew his dreadlocks out. In 1995 or so, the prison adopted a new grooming policy, where each inmate needed a short haircut, and he actually said no to that. He held out for seven years, but then once he cut it he got out of solitary.

TCR: Your mother is another huge character in your book, she seemed like the main force keeping your family together through tough times, and she grew up under tough circumstances as well. Where do you think she got her inspiration from?

Bailey: I do think she’s naturally tough, and even though she only had a fifth-grade education and didn’t get her GED until she was 65, she was the smartest person in the family. But her faith is her foundation for everything.

TCR: You talk about southern Christianity, and it seems to take this dual nature in your book. Martin Luther King Jr. was a Christian, but there are white supremacists who also say they’re Christian advancing racist ideologies. How do you currently view Christianity in light of your experience and the current social and political climate?

Bailey: My views on Christianity have really changed and been challenged over the last couple of decades. What I’m finding too often, especially when it comes to race, is that there are so many white Christians who would pray for your soul, but don’t want to fight for racial justice. In 2016, many of them whom I knew and went to church with for about 17 years or so, constantly made excuses for (President) Trump’s bigotry and still are.

That makes me wonder is it really a good faith to have? I’m still struggling with that. I have seen this faith strengthen my mom through really tough times, so I can definitely see the good in it, but on the other hand, I’m seeing it used for bigotry, and that has been a massive disappointment.

TCR: You say in the book that “punishing crime is a necessary evil but building stronger communities and families require no longer mistaking punishment for justice.” Would you elaborate?

Bailey: Too many of us think justice means actually locking somebody away for doing something awful. But if we don’t actually fight to end all the sort of ripple effects of it, then all that we’re doing is actually sort of making more problems. When someone does something wrong, they must face some sort of real consequence, but if you don’t account for the effects on vulnerable families, then I think you are seeding the ground for more awful things to happen later.

TCR: You talk about attending Moochie’s first parole hearing. It sounded very cold; you were speaking to people through a TV for example. What was that like?

Bailey: It just felt really belittling. Especially because you have no real control or no real say in it, even though they let you speak. You get the sense that they’ve made up their minds long before you walk into that room. Also, what makes it such a tough thing is that you actually know going in that most people are turned down. You try to balance having some hope and trying to be realistic at the same time. You’re trying to convince yourself that you can actually say something during that hearing that will actually make a difference, even though you know that’s not true.

TCR: What do you think they’re really looking for in those parole hearings?

Bailey: That’s a great question, I got the sense that what they want to be able to say later on is that you apologized and showed real remorse. If you do that and if something bad happens later on, they can at least say that you said the right words. But really, they look at your record beforehand and decide then.

TCR: I’m guessing those years he spent in solitary did not help his chances.

Bailey: Yes, during that time he couldn’t take any classes or do any sort of training etc., which they also use to evaluate your progress inside.

TCR: Switching gears here, how do you think the media in general covers race today? Do you think it could be improved?

Bailey: I think we have a lot of problems with the coverage, with mainstream media in general. When I got into the business, I was told not to write about certain kinds of people because the audience would not be able to relate to them. So they were talking about families like mine essentially. Many journalists today actually don’t have a rounded view of race or crime. On the other side, some journalists are so sympathetic they write in misleading ways, and sometimes they write people into these caricatures that always need to be protected. We need more rounded coverage of the criminal justice system itself so we can actually deal with the truth as it is.

TCR: You talk about police brutality and young black men getting shot in the U.S. While abuse has likely decreased since previous decades, I assume you would agree there’s still major problems with police brutality and institutional racism?

Issac Bailey

Issac J. Bailey

Bailey: Yes, even right now, I meet young black dudes who tell me they’ve been beaten by cops or harassed etc., and they actually still don’t report it because they don’t trust the system enough that these cops will be held accountable. I think it’s still being under-counted. Many black dudes just take it in stride and don’t tell anyone about it, even now.

TCR: In the book, one of your younger brothers says, “Real men go to prison.” I found that pretty shocking.

Bailey: Yeah, they had gotten so deep into this prison and street mindset, they really believed you cannot actually be a real man until you have gone to prison and survived it. For them, any man who hasn’t gone to prison can’t be a really strong man. They don’t think that way any more, fortunately.

TCR: You write that former President Barack Obama was making some good steps towards criminal justice reform. Can you expand on that?

Bailey: I would say he got the ball rolling again, in addition to his record number of commutations which were also huge. But the biggest thing was the Department of Justice’s strong oversight of police departments. If you can get more accountability there, than you can try to reestablish trust, at least between the cops and those affected neighborhoods. For me that was a major move. Given time, that would have benefited everybody. That’s why Trump’s move to pull back from that is one of my major disappointments in this era.

TCR: What do you think of neighborhood policing strategies that try to build more trust between police and the communities they serve?

 Bailey: I think it’s good in theory at least, where you are actually trying to establish bonds between the cops and the residents. I actually think that breaks down, once you see a cop who does something wrong and not get punished for it. That kind of law enforcement is seen as a Trojan horse where they’re more out to get you than help you. As long as that distrust is there between the cops and the residents, it’s going to be difficult for these programs to really take hold. If accountability is not there, then these attitudes and distrust will fester.

TCR: Have you seen any accountability when a cop kills a black man unjustifiably?

Bailey: At least from what I’ve seen, most often no. It is rare for officers to face any criminal charges at all, and when they do, juries will find them not guilty anyway. In 2015 or so, there was a drug unit who broke into a guy’s house, shot him nine times, paralyzed him for life, and then lied about the details of it, saying they knocked first. At the end of it, none of the cops faced any charges or any kind of discipline. Once you have those kinds of situations, I can’t stress enough how much distrust that generates.

TCR: Are there any organizations or people you like to follow in terms of criminal justice reform?

Bailey: I’m actually focused on something that doesn’t feel like criminal justice reform but it really is. My wife founded a nonprofit called Freedom Readers, where she’s just trying to improve literacy in really tough neighborhoods. She’s been able to bring in all sorts of volunteers in terms of educators like teachers, cops, and business men and women, all kinds of folks. What she’s been able to do is let outsiders see a more rounded view of these kids and their neighborhoods. That will go a long way in making it easier to have deeper conversations as to why criminal justice reform is so important.

TCR: Finally, how is Moochie doing?

Bailey: He’s been out for almost four years now. And he is getting better day by day, even though there are tougher days than others, which I can trace back to his time in solitary honestly. At least for us, we have a pretty large family, so he’s been able to call on each one of us at various times in order to help and guide him. I think that has been very helpful, but he still has more adjusting to do.

Dane Stallone is a TCR news intern. He welcomes comments from readers.

from https://thecrimereport.org