Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A troubling trend in News & Record journalism

The News & Record in Greensboro - the region's largest newspaper - has a story on the front page of today's edition about last night's resolution by the Rockingham County Board of Commissioners to restore the Confederate Soldiers Monument in downtown Reidsville (see earlier post here).

For some reason or another Joe Gamm - the reporter who wrote the story - chose to include the following in his article...

"After a court approved replacing the monument, vandals spray-painted the words 'Monument is coming back' on an auto body shop run by an African American businessman who outspokenly opposed returning the statue to its original spot."
Could somebody please explain to me: What does the above reference by Mr. Gamm have anything... anything at all... to do with what happened to the Confederate monument from the time of the accident in 2011 up 'til today?

Because I can't find any legitimate reason whatsoever.

What I do see however see is a not-so-subtle attempt to inject an inflammatory issue into the matter at hand, when said issue is NOT germane to the discussion at all.

"Objective journalism"? Hardly. It's not the first time I've seen such writing employed by the News & Record lately either. Earlier this month Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson suffered a heart attack. The News & Record article made a teeny mention of that significant fact, choosing instead to harp on the lawsuit that Johnson is facing from the United States Department of Justice in regard to alleged racial profiling.

Nothing personal against Mr. Gamm. But I expect better out of the News & Record and every one of its writers (many of whom I have come to know and respect over the years). Unfortunately there is an appearance of considerable bias in what is otherwise a well-written story. However one such aside as this - when its sole seeming purpose is to inject overtones of racism into a matter demanding sobriety of senses - throws everything about it into question and doubt.

And that isn't meant to suggest any disparagement or diminishing the grievousness of the vandalism done to Ernie Pinnix's property. Vandalism is a severe crime regardless of the motive. It should be prosecuted because it is a crime, regardless of why the perpetrator did it. But that incident was, or at least should be, a completely separate matter from the Confederate monument.

Mr. Gamm, News & Record editors: this isn't proper journalism, and we all know it.

Again, do better.

7 comments :

Lex Alexander said...

Sure, Chris, I can tell you what it has to do with it. A black man exercised his First Amendment right to protest the decision. As a result someone vandalized his property. It's a vivid capsule summary of how divisive the issue is.

Note that you don't have to be either for or against the statue to understand the significance of including this background in the story.

Chris Knight said...

The issue wasn't "divisive" at all until the officials of the City of Reidsville decided that was divisive.

The vandalism in and of itself is a story of considerable weight. Nonetheless, does that... should that... have any bearing on the legal propriety that Reidsville's leadership neglected to adhere to?

I don't believe it does. Pursue, prosecute and imprison those responsible for the vandalism. There should be no consideration for why it was done, only that it WAS done.

If Mr. Gamm or any other reporter wishes to write about the eventual arrest, prosecution and sentencing of the parties who vandalized Mr. Pinnix's property, that's totally in keeping with the responsibilities of good journalism. The specifics and nuances and yes, the motives of the crime can and should be made a matter of record. However I do not see how that crime has merit in regard to the matter of record of the monument issue.

And in case anyone is wondering, I don't believe there is such a thing as "hate crime". A crime is a crime, no matter the degree of hate or stupidity behind it.

Anonymous said...

Lex Alexander, Chris is right. It looks like anyone supporting the monument is being painted racist. That paragraph didn't need to be in the story. Also Chris is right too about there not being any problem about the monument until James Festerman started playing games with it. He was a halfassed police chief and now he's a fullassed mayor. The statue could have been up already for less than twenty thousand dollars. It's going back someday and by then the City of Reidsville will have wasted thousands more on Festerman's little game with Monument Circle.

Anonymous said...

Do you think the connection between the two stories could be that the vandals wrote "monument" on the man's property? I know that's subtle but maybe a crack rogue thinker like yourself can see the logic.

Chris Knight said...

"Do you think the connection between the two stories could be that the vandals wrote "monument" on the man's property? I know that's subtle but maybe a crack rogue thinker like yourself can see the logic."

By that logic the vandals could have written "vacuum aspiration" and that would demand connecting the vandalism with Planned Parenthood.

It is also quite possible that the vandalism was committed by parties unknown who do NOT want the monument to be restored.

I say "possible", not "certain". But very possible all the same.

Anonymous said...

Wow. A Monument Truther. I guess you also think the original accident wasn't an "accident".

Chris Knight said...

"Wow. A Monument Truther. I guess you also think the original accident wasn't an "accident". "

Let's see. To have engineered the "accident" that damaged the monument there would have had to be a conspiracy between the City of Reidsville, the driver, and God Almighty since the incident happened in the early morning hours following a night of severe thunderstorms that took out the power to downtown Reidsville, including the city cameras that would have otherwise captured footage of the accident.

I have seen no evidence, of any kind, that the May 2011 accident was anything but that: an accident.

However, it is not at all unheard of for acts of vandalism to occur against those who one agrees with, in order to engender sympathy from the community. I can think of two or three such situations in this area during the past several years, including one involving a faked bomb threat toward one's own property.

We know who was involved with the accident with the Confederate monument and what happened beyond any reasonable doubt. We do not know who was involved with the vandalism of Ernie Pinnix's property. Until such time as we do, it would NOT be right to overlook all possibilities regardless of how unlikely they seem.