A Case Study in Local News Futility

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

That’s the topic of my crime column this week.

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32 Responses to “A Case Study in Local News Futility”

  1. #1 |  Joe | 

    Thank you Radley. The key to all of this is this simple statement:

    To date, both state and federal courts have ruled that on-duty police officers have no expectation of privacy while they are in public.

    Since the police (or for that matter any civil servant) work for us, we as citizens should be permitted to record what they are doing in public. I recognize they get paranoid (heck I would get paranoid if someone followed me with a video camera) but sunlight is the best disinfectant.

  2. #2 |  Andrew S. | 

    Now, now Radley. You can’t expect local TV stations to question the information that the local PD spoon-feeds them (as I’m sure this was). After all, if they dare to question that, all the exclusive scoops they get will cease.

  3. #3 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

    So if you have a party in NH and the cops raid it, and you videotape the raid, that’s Wiretapping too.
    Live Free or Die, my ass.

    PORTSMOUTH — A New Castle man arrested at a July 4 house party is charged with a count of wiretapping, alleging he used his cell phone to film the police response.
    A press release about the party where 20 people were charged did not disclose the wiretapping arrest, but police confirmed Tuesday that Adam H. Whitman, 20, of New Castle was arrested for wiretapping.

  4. #4 |  Cynical in CA | 

    OMG. The only people that watch news on TV are AARP members. Yes, I know those people vote. No, it doesn’t matter to me. They’d vote anyway.

    Anyone with a brain gets their news from the internet. The only worthwhile information one gets from the local news is weather and traffic. The rest is strictly showbiz.

    The national news is exactly the same, kind of like MLB to the local news’ AA ball. Last week ABC World News Tonight aired a hit piece on the individual sovereignty movement that was so laughably biased, scaremongering and misrepresentative that I had to watch in awe at how in-your-face the propaganda has become.

    I don’t know if the news media ever truly were independent of government in the past or if that’s just pleasant nostalgia, but there is simply no denying that today’s news media are simply another wing of the State, parroting the official line, telling their audience what to think and what not to think.

    It all makes for great cultural anthropology if nothing else.

  5. #5 |  Miroker | 

    Seems that your “particulalry” spectacular spell check is not working correctly.

  6. #6 |  Robert | 

    I pretty much stopped looking at the local news long ago. Kept screaming at the TV and it wasn’t good for my blood pressure…

    They repeat the same news 3 times in 1/2 hr segments cause they are too cheap to run any sort of syndicated show in those time slots. They have a crawler at the bottom of the screen, ala Headline news (for a city of 60K people), and have all of this “Entertainment Tonight” B/S with Paris Hilton updates and all that rot.

  7. #7 |  Athena | 

    I, while not an AARP member, am practically addicted to my local new both in the morning before work and in the evening when I come home. But, yeah, as has been suggested, it’s pretty much only reliable for traffic and weather (and even that’s debatable in Seattle). For things I’m legitimately interested in, I hit the internet. When the cop was taped stomping on the Hispanic detainee, one local news station delayed their release of the footage. Some speculated it was an attempt to protect the SPD. That wouldn’t surprise me one bit.

    In similar news, I’m so, so, so glad similar applications of the wiretapping law aren’t being used in Seattle, given the handful of incidents involving officers that have been videotaped and exposed. Might anyone be able to tell me if the application of the wiretapping laws in the states that are abusing it are a recent development (in other words, something that’s likely to spread)?

  8. #8 |  Nick42 | 


    Did you try to contact the news station in question and get them to run a correction? I’m curious was their response, if any.

  9. #9 |  Sam | 

    If the market demands substandard news coverage of the local police department, who is anybody here to complain?

  10. #10 |  Kevin | 

    In the States that have no expectation of privacy provision (and Maryland, which apparently thinks is does not), how many arrests have been made of citizens video taping in public that DO NOT involve taping of police officers?

    Also, is the media exempted? If so, who qualifies as media? If not, why are they not arrested for every video news report they record in public?

    I wonder where the MSM is on this. They certainly are all over the issue when it’s members of a particular administration who are violating our rights (e.g. Bush and FISA) or members of a certain group whose rights are being violated (take your pick here) But here we have the laughable, narrowly targeted application of wiretapping laws being used to harass citizens who point out abuse of power by the police, and we get nothing. It’s mind boggling.

  11. #11 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

    “But here we have the laughable, narrowly targeted application of wiretapping laws being used to harass citizens who point out abuse of power by the police”

    Yeah, for sure, the Irony is overwhelming. Abuse of Power used to railroad
    citizens trying to document Abuse of Power.

  12. #12 |  johnl | 

    There is a typo I call out at reason.

    MSM news is just awful as reporters are completely unable to deal with uncertainty. So the business pages credulously regurgitate corporate PR, the city desk the city manager, and court reporters the DA. The brain trust of most papers is sports.

  13. #13 |  Marty | 

    you could do a case study every day on what’s not reported accurately (or at all) on tv and in the papers. or, you could do as I do and not even pay attention to these idiots.

  14. #14 |  Sam | 


    You’re alleging that local sportswriters aren’t wedged completely up the asses of the teams they cover? Really?

  15. #15 |  JS | 

    I sent the link to the station manager of the local ABC news channel.

  16. #16 |  JS | 

    Cynical “OMG. The only people that watch news on TV are AARP members.”

    lol I was at my dad’s last week and all he watches or talks about is FoxNews and all the commercials were aimed at old people.

  17. #17 |  johnl | 

    Sam if the sports writers wrote like local reporters, they would get the scores wrong.

  18. #18 |  Cynical in CA | 

    You can tell if you’re watching the wrong show by the commercials.

    If every commercial is some kind of medication and you’re under 50, you’re watching the wrong show.

  19. #19 |  Tom Can | 

    I think possibly Sarah has used her wicked, dishonest skills to manipulate Levi into issuing a statement that he lied about all things Palin. Perhaps we can now get to the bottom of Sarah’s uterus, and the genesis of Trig.

    This has been a bad week for the folks of JournoList!

  20. #20 |  Darkefang | 

    Regardless of any Levi Johnston retraction, Sarah’s pants are on fire.

  21. #21 |  Michael Chaney | 

    You can tell if you’re watching the wrong show by the commercials.

    Right. Another example is commercial blocks that consist entirely of questionable credit schemes, injury lawyers, and low-level “colleges” that offer degrees that let you get a job as a receptionist.

  22. #22 |  Dave W. | 

    Kind of different, but related:

    Negativland’s Helter Stupid album raises some of the same points in an entertaining way. It is one album that actually helps to have the liner notes at least the first time you lissen to it.

  23. #23 |  Sam Wilkinson | 

    Odd: I observe that the marketplace Radley is writing about apparently demands substandard news coverage. If it didn’t, the news coverage he’s (rightfully) angry about would presumably be different, to meet the market’s need. What is it that’s being proposed here by the people giving my observation a thumbs down? If the money’s still rolling in for substandard news coverage, why should that coverage change?

  24. #24 |  StevefromOhio | 

    #23-You’re getting thumbs down because your claim is false. The market is not demanding this sort of news, it is flatly rejecting it, which makes its prevalence all the more striking. There is a reason local newspapers and TV stations are going broke. People are starting to recognize that the news coverage is substandard at best, and are turning away from it in droves. The market is punishing substandard news coverage, and has been for near on a decade now. Before the internet, people didn’t really know how lousy the reporting was. If i didn’t have the internet I might think the report Radley is highlighting is acceptable journalism.

    Internet news is more varied, has a greater diversity of opinion, allows the individual consumer to research the claims of the journalist. You only need to look at the recent Alex Perry controversy for evidence that the old way of doing media in America-that is, repeat whatever the nearest government authority told you-is rapidly dying.

  25. #25 |  StevefromOhio | 

    The reason this stuff still exists is because those who sell it have been trained in the old way of doing business and have been very, very slow to adapt. Also, their target audience is is a generation that created the now dying but once prevalent paradigm. Thus, tiny and shrinking demand meets new, nimble, far superior competitor. Result: lousy journalism is recognized, but not by the people who buy the crap that is advertised on local evening news. Old media slowly dies, market killed it.

    Hope that makes a measure of sense. Your turn.

  26. #26 |  Sam Wilkinson | 


    I agree that local news coverage is utter garbage. But those stations are still on the air, and still broadcasting. Somebody’s watching. Somebody’s consuming. And until they’re not, this level of coverage is exactly what the market – at least the segment of the market that still watches the 11:00 news – is demanding.

    You can say those people buying “the crap advertised on the local evening news” with as much condescension as you want, but there are still more of them then there are of you which is why the local news looks the way it does.

  27. #27 |  John Markley | 

    Sam Wilkinson,

    Your original post, “If the market demands substandard news coverage of the local police department, who is anybody here to complain?”, presupposes that libertarian support for free markets somehow entails that libertarians cannot express disdain for anything produced by those markets. Which is utter nonsense, though it’s the sort of thing that I’ve often seen presented as clever or insightful by ignorant “progressives” who can’t really grasp the idea of hating something without supporting the use of government coercion against it. You got thumbs down because your post demonstrated that you are either ignorant of even the most basic principles of the ideas you are trying to criticize, or arguing in bad faith.

  28. #28 |  primus | 

    Pravda anyone?

  29. #29 |  Sam Wilkinson | 

    If you endorse the marketplace, you can’t complain about the utter garbage that it produces. Nobody around here lets anybody off the hook for believing in government despite the garbage it produces. Same idea.

  30. #30 |  Sam Wilkinson | 

    The point that needs to be made is this: what is the solution? The marketplace is only providing to customers what those customers want and those customers want this sort of garbage, just as they’re going to inevitably want coverage of the anger in Oakland more than they’re going to want coverage of the police officer executing Oscar Grant on the train platform. There is simply no incentive for your local news to do anything other than respond to what its customers want, so that’s what it does. There’s no obvious solution to people’s apathy toward bad coverage, so it then becomes easier to complain about the bad coverage.

  31. #31 |  John Markley | 

    Sam Wilkinson,

    “If you endorse the marketplace, you can’t complain about the utter garbage that it produces. Nobody around here lets anybody off the hook for believing in government despite the garbage it produces. Same idea.”

    Utter nonsense. I can endorse freedom of speech and still say that I wish people who who advocate white supremacy or deny the Holocaust would shut up. I can endorse freedom of association and still say that I think a man who disowns his son for being gay is an asshole. I can endorse freedom of religion and still say that I think this or that religion has pernicious teachings that should not be believed. And likewise, I can endorse free markets and still say that I wish people wouldn’t buy or sell this or that product, and that people who do so deserve criticism.

    There is nothing at all inconsistent or hypocritical about this. It simply means that I can abhor the way some people use their freedom and still believe that everyone should have that freedom, and that I don’t believe that all of my preferences and moral values should be imposed on everyone else at the point of a gun.

  32. #32 |  Cynical in CA | 

    Sam, the news is subsidized by government. There is no free market in news on TV. The FCC controls all, the corporate masters and government conspire to produce the information they want the audience to hear. Your entire premise is false.

    The closest thing to a free market in news is on the internet. That is where you find diversity. A better way of looking at things is that if there is uniformity, there is the State, not the market.