Tuesday 5 January 2010

Media watch

Radley Balko fisks the Washington Post's coverage of the DC cop who pulled a gun on folks having a snowball fight. Long story short: the Post was more than happy to reprint without question the Assistant Police Chief's assertions that the gun was never drawn despite one of their reporters having been on the scene at the fight and despite youtube video clearly showing the cop having pulled his gun. Bloggers and the City Paper get it right; Washington Post fails.
For all the "and then the adults took over" anti-new media sneer in Fisher's post (and hey, Fisher did write all of this in a blog post—so maybe he has a point!), the link for his "on the blogs" condescension actually goes the City Paper, which got the story right from the outset. The City Paper called Newsham, too. But instead of running with Newsham's denials as fact, that paper's reporters also viewed the video evidence posted around the web and talked to eyewitnesses—including the Post's own staffer, whom Zapotosky ignored.

Instead of turning his nose up at new media and social networking, Fisher should be asking himself whether, if it weren't for Twitter, YouTube, blogs, and alternative weeklies like the City Paper, the Post would have ever gotten this story right. Or whether the Post would have eventually given credence to Baylor's accusers had this happened not on a busy U-Street intersection teeming with wired gentrifiers, but in D.C.'s poorer, blacker Southeast quadrant, where confrontations with the police are more common yet less covered, and where corroborating video would be less likely. More to the point, if what Zapotosky did was "real journalism," how many other police misconduct stories might the Post have gotten wrong all this time because it merely deferred to MPDC flacks like Newsham?

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