Monday, October 8th, 2012

This St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist appears to be upset that some people are criticizing his local law enforcement professionals for possibly profiling, making illegal traffic stops, and performing illegal searches—all in an effort to seize property from low level drug offenders.

You’d think a journalist would see a possible story here—an opportunity to do some reporting. Maybe he could actually look into Terrance Huff’s allegations instead of mocking them. Maybe he could use his column to see if these sorts of stops have happened to other people. Maybe, you know, at least pretend that he’s holding his local public officials accountable. Maybe he could investigate why a cop with a history like Michael Reichert’s is still on the police force. Maybe look into how these drug dogs are actually used, and whether their “alerts” should really be enough to justify a police officer rummaging through personal belongings.

Maybe that’s asking too much of Pat Gauen. But if he takes his job as a journalist seriously, you’d think he’d do some reporting. Instead, he wrote a column about something he saw on TV, then gave his local public officials a forum to slag a guy whose rights may have been violated.

And here I thought it was we Internet journalists who just sit in our basements opining about stuff, while the newspaper generation goes out and does all the real reporting.

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11 Responses to “Journalism”

  1. #1 |  Cyto | 

    Where you see poor reporting, St. Louis area politicians see an excellent example of the 4th estate, guaranteeing access and tips for Gauen. Win-Win baby!

    That could also be opportunity knocking… It seems the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a need for decent reporting on this story. Hmm… who has a library of easily recycled material that could make an excellent series by a featured guest columnist? Well, if they had any revenue left to spend on buying columns from independents. From what I understand from reading the paper, the people who work at newspapers are doing so for free since the invention of the internet… just for the love of the free press.

  2. #2 |  derfel cadarn | 

    The term journalist is used too loosely in todays world, the terms professional lair or prehaps propogandist would be apropos.

  3. #3 |  freedomfan | 

    Whether due to deliberate or subconscious statism or some other cause, too many journalist are dependent on government officials for their stories. To them, the best (and easiest) way to legitimize a story is to get some government official to give a quote on it. It doesn’t matter if there is little reason to believe that official has any special knowledge or expertise on the matter at hand. If one has to write a story about a cat running up a tree, then it’s a better story if one can get the mayor to comment on it.

    That attitude that the words of politicians and various ranking government employees (“officials”) legitimize a story results in a dependence of the journalist on those people. And, it becomes increasingly difficult to write stories that point out the flaws of those on which one is dependent. In the same vein, why bother doing any actual research on the facts of the story? Once one of these lap-dog reporters has gotten the quotes from officials, the story is done.

  4. #4 |  Jim | 

    ‘Journalists’ – hah, more like stenographers to state power.

  5. #5 |  liberranter | 

    Real investigative journalism is a science that requires time, resources, perseverance, and the reasonable assurance that a large enough number of people will pay for and read your work to make it worthwhile to produce. Today’s “newspapers” have none of the above. In other words, “real” investigative journalism is just too expensive and has too small a return on the investment of time, resources, etc. to make it worthwhile for most of today’s “mainstream” publications. This of course doesn’t even take into consideration the institutional incompetence, intellectual immaturity, natural lack of curiosity, and brainwashed compliance of those who call “mainstream ‘journalism'” their profession.

  6. #6 |  Personanongrata | 

    If the sherrif says this type of profiling doesn’t happen then thats is the end of the story, Pat Gauen has other important “news” articles to transcribe.

  7. #7 |  Marty | 

    the Post has cut their staffing again. I’m thinking they need a good relationship with the cops to make reporting less labor intensive. Joe Pulitzer would be so proud of what his paper has become!

  8. #8 |  Steve D | 

    It was interesting that not a single comment under the Post Dispatch Story supported Pat Gauen. (and neither does a single comment here)

  9. #9 |  Other Sean | 


    Put down the David Simon crack-pipe. The newspapers were ten times worse back when they had staff out the ass and a 25% profit margin with effective monopoly control of all major markets.

    Now they just cheerlead for the ongoing drug war. Back then, they had the power to CREATE it out of thin air, and they did.

    The correct amount of staffing for a rag like the Post-Dispatch would be: zero employees.

  10. #10 |  Gerald A | 

    Sadly, the sherriff office is the more professional of the counties law enforcement.

  11. #11 |  October 15 roundup - Overlawyered | 

    […] Speaking of which, what is it about Madison County, Illinois, anyway? [Radley Balko, more] […]