Thursday, September 25, 2008

Headline: The 'Grim Sleeper'
$500,000 reward for Los Angeles serial killer
by Adam Housley, reporter for The Los Angeles Bureau
This article was posted on as part of their On the Scene segment.

This article caught my attention immediately with the headline. What could be more newsworthy than learning about a pending investigation to track down a serial killer? Granted, the 'grim sleeper' is located in Los Angeles, but with having close family only about 10 minutes from LA, the topic hit home for me. 

Being a journalism major, what I expected to learn from Housley was firstly, why is this man referred to as the 'grim sleeper'? What makes him different from other serial killers? According to police and their records, when was he last active in the area? 

Unfortunately, what I got was a small percentage of facts, along with slanted coverage toward the LAPD's ongoing investigation and bias in Housley's personal opinions. Housley covered this story as if he was glorifying the public's presumed interest and intrigue in examining serial killers, because they are so rare. This was an opinion, irrelevant to the story and an overall assumption. 

Housley uses phrases like "before he strikes again" which felt out of place. While I was reading through the article I felt like I was reading a film review or the plot of a new horror flick.

The only information I was able to sift out about the 'grim sleeper' was that he is a man, he has been active in LA, he targets young, black female prostitutes and the rounded out dates of when murders have occurred. 

"People always seem to be fascinated with serial killers. From the times of 'Jack the Ripper' across the pond, to the Zodiac to the 'Green River Killer', movies/books/articles have all repeated and investigated the horrific accounts of multiple murder. One reason for the interest might be the thought that these brutal murderers are few and far between."

"That thought may be changing right in front of us, as DNA begins to link more murders together. Such is the case here in Los Angeles, where murders from the late 1980's have now been tied to murders in the late 1990's and even up to January 1st 2007."

I had to question how the LAPD knows the murders are linked. What proof do they have? What is the connection? How is DNA  helping to link more murders together? What advancements in technology, if this applies, is aiding in the investigation? And lastly, if the 'grim sleeper's' last known activity was back in January 2007, why is it important that the public be notified of this murderer again at this time? What makes it timely and newsworthy? 

Housley uses a few quotes from LAPD Chief of Detectives Charley Beck and LA City Councilman Bernard Parks, who is the former LAPD Chief, which strengthens his article, but still no relevant information is given to readers. 

"The LAPD has 7 detectives assigned to this case full-time and so far all they have to go on is a vague description by a survivor from the late 1980's . The FBI has also offered to help, but right now they may need a little luck and hope that this guy slips up."

That statement instills a lot of confidence. Housley gives a positive slant toward the officers who are working on this case, but also places them in the "what else can they possibly work on with the little information they have" safety position. In a way he seems to be letting them off the hook and giving an excuse for the stagnant pace of the case. 

I can't figure out whether Housley wrote this article in 15 minutes before deadline or he just wanted to dig up a case and talk about serial killers. Either way, I was shocked by the unprofessional layout and obvious careless reporting in a matter that should have been given much more concern and attention to detail. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Not Again!

Headline: New voting glitches raise concerns in Florida

Welcome back to Palm Beach County, where the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Alex Johnson and Kerry Sanders published this story virtually dismissing any ethics involved with their journalism. Although many facts and figures were presented, there was an obvious liberal tone to the article.

For instance-

Off to court they went. A state judge ordered another tally. No result was announced because, while the missing 3,500 votes were found in a warehouse, a fresh batch of 159 that were counted the first time could not be read.

Although the 2000 presidential election in Florida was confusing and misunderstood by many residents, the journalists in this article attribute many of the blunders to the government. Not taking into account the elderly population and the stereotypical absentmindedness attributed to them.

Although the journalists present both sides of the story, the judge and government officials are portrayed in a negative light and are literally made fun of throughout the article.

It is a shame that of all media outlets, MSNBC shows bias on the TODAY show. A shame.

MSNBC ran this story on September 24, 2008 on the TODAY SHOW on NBC. It was posted on later that day.

Headline: Girls discuss suggestive photos sent to ex-coach

I found this to be an interesting article about an issue that surrounds us in everything we do, especially as college students. The main premise of this article, set in Binghamton, NY is a follow-up story revealing the latest news facts on a recent trial based on a coach's prior sexual offenses to his players.

From my understanding, this is a high school field hockey team which Todd Broxmeyer coached and imposed sexual feelings as well as force of acts on the girls. Though this article lacks significant or blatant biases, the reporter implies slanted views that could be taken as her own beliefs of the situation.

As a journalism major, I know that in reporting it is practically unlawful to put any kind of emotion into an article and therefore not insinuate an opinion or side on the issue, especially in hard-news stories, such as this one. In order to avoid this occurring, they simply have to use more attribution of sources--when in doubt, ATTRIBUTE; this reporter did not always do that.

The reporter, Nancy Dooling, probably had no intention of offering an argument in the case or providing any information that she believes the accusations are true or false or that Broxmeyer is guilty or innocent. However, I saw right through the article and realized that she obviously has a viewpoint in this, and implicitly stated it throughout the article.

For instance, she states:
"She took a photograph of herself in panties and bra and sent it to him in November or December of 2007" regarding one of the girls on Broxmeyer's team.

Where did she obtain this information? Did Dooling actually witness the girl taking the pictures of herself and send them, or did the girl tell her this, or maybe it's just a guess from someone or an assumption? We will never know; therefore, Dooling should have attributed this statement to the source of which she got it, otherwise not used it at all. I say this based on my experience from past journalism courses here at Brockport and the standards of which we were expected to write articles.

This exact lack of attribution occurs again directly following that statement when she says: "Broxmeyer, then 37, encouraged the same player to come to his private, independent practices and he'd help her obtain a college scholarship."

Again, how does she know?

Another example of how Dooling is presenting bias information and not simply factual reporting is when she explains a former occurrence between Broxmeyer and a 17-year-old girl, former player, in which the two had consensual sex. Clearly if the sex was consensual it was not illegal rape, but based on age it would be constituted as statuatory rape accprding to New York state laws. Dooling reports on this as being a crucial part of the trials.

As a reader I feel like she put this in to reveal that Broxmeyer is a "bad guy" since he is consentually sleeping with teenage girls in his "Lisle apartment, which he shared with his girlfriend,"
according to Dooling's article.

I do not think this would effect the charges of which he is being prosecuted for rape, defined as forced or non-consensual sex, and child pornography. So why did she include it in this follow-up article telling us about the trials Broxmeyer is facing due to rape? I took this as Dooling's sly way of inciting that basically he is a pig because he is not only having sex with young women he coached, but also cheating on his girlfriend in their home. Yes, it provides drama and sparks some reader interest, but that is what I deem as "sensationalized news."

Lastly, Dooling says in the article that "The young woman testified she obtained a college scholarship to play field hockey." Again, so what? How does this apply to the issue-at-hand? This implies that the girl received the scholarship because she slept with her coach who also promised to help others gain scholarships.

I have my own opinions on this issue in its entirety but when writing a hard-news article on such a controversial topic, I would be annoyingly conscious of attributing almost all of my facts to the deserving sources.

Monday, September 22, 2008

"Remembering Stephanie Tubbs Jones" by Neil Cavuto

It's not a coincidence that the first three blogs are about politics. This is really the focal point of most of media biases. No matter how hard I tried to navigate away from politics-related news, I'm still brought back to the same topic.

Let me start out by giving you an overview of the article posted on Fox News by Neil Cavuto. It was written on August 21, 2008, a day after the Ohio Democratic Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones passed away due to brain hemorrhage. The article at first appears to be sort of an obituary for Mrs. Jones. However, with every sentence we read, it becomes more obvious that the article is meant to attack the Democratic party, at first implicitly, and later directly.

According to Mr. Cavuto, the congresswoman was never disagreeable, and "she was never phony, neither." She never said she supported the Iraq war, "unlike scores of Democrats," who supported the war at the beginning but now don't admit they ever supported it. What else could he imply by saying that? The implication here is that many Democrats are phony and inconsistent. Yes, there may be some Democrats who are inconsistent. But what is the proportion of them compared to the party as a whole? On the other hand, aren't there Republicans who changed their minds? It's normal for politicians to change their minds. They are just like any other human beings, don't they have the right to reconsider an issue?

What matters here is that Mr. Cavuto uses a collection of offensive vocabulary towards the Democrats, such as "phony," "swore on a stack of bibles, or "smarmy." It is no doubt he is being opinionated and certainly against the Democrats. What is worse is that he turns to Congressman Jones as the only representable member of the party, who is no longer serving us. What is it supposed to mean? He is implying that the party is hopeless, and that the public should no longer rely on it.

I'm not at all defending the Democrats, but Mr. Cavuto certainly shouldn't focus on one side of the argument to attack the party the way he does in the article.

Neil Cavuto is a well-known television anchor and commentator on the Fox Business Network. He is host of three television programs: Your world with Neil Cavuto, Cavuto on Business, and Cavuto.