Journalist Complains Of Crime Reporting On The Cheap


“Far too much of journalism consists of quoting what police, prosecutors, politicians and publicists say–and this is especially the case with beat reporters,” says David Cay Johnston, former New York Times reporter, writing in Nieman Reports. “It's news on the cheap and most of it isn't worth the time it takes to read, hear or watch. Don't take my word for it. Instead look at declining circulation figures. People know value and they know when what they're getting is worth their time or worth the steadily rising cost of a subscription.”

To understand how badly we're doing the most basic work of journalism in covering the law enforcement beat, try sitting in a barber shop, says Johnston. While he was getting a recent haircut, the noon news on the television began with a grisly murder. The well-educated man in the chair next to me started ranting about how crime is out of control. But it isn’t, Johnston told the man. The chance of being burglarized today is 42.5 percent of what it was in 1980; the chance of being murdered has almost been cut in half. “So why is there so much crime on the news every day?” asked one barber. Johnston’s reply: “Because it's cheap. And with crime news you only have to get the cops' side of the story. There is no ethical duty to ask the arrested for their side of the story.”

Comments are closed.