Thursday, June 3, 2010

Ability and Accountability?

Could someone in editorial authority please change the title on Richard Haddad's pseudoblog to something like "The Christian Corner"? He doesn't post columns often, but they're getting more religionist every time and farther away from his stated topic area. Today's offering wanders deep into Wacky World.

Editorial: Arizona gains support on immigration law

The unnamed Courier editor indulges in a little wishful thinking. It would be sort of endearing, really, if it weren't so, well, dumb.

Followup: The young Mr Pierce and police-blotter day

We have four stories from the police beat today: a drunken alien masher, a suspected child molester, a fugitive teen, and a DUI suspect. This last, of course, is the son of a rich and powerful land developer and state legislator.

Let's talk about special treatment.

A reliable factor in choosing what becomes news is that people want to know more about people they know more about. So it's natural that the Nelson Pierce story went on page one rather than with the others on page three. But it's also convenient in that it separates the guy with powerful connections from the dreary hoi polloi.

Comparing the raw police-book story in eNews with the more massaged Courier version, fascinating differences emerge.

Mr Pierce's name appears in the lead paragraph of the eNews story. In the Courier lead, he's "a man," and his name is relegated to the second graf. (The headline writer comes later in the process.)

The domestic-disturbance context runs in the second graf in eNews; in the Courier, it's third.

In the police report, he was shirtless and sweaty, with black and bloodied fingers. Those details do not appear in the Courier.

The police report says that on being informed he was under arrest, Mr Pierce "said that he wanted to run off." No mention in the Courier.

The police say they informed him that the full drug test was voluntary, and he expressed "he did not wish to participate in that evaluation." No mention of that in the Courier.

"Pierce admitted that he was addicted to heroin and uses this drug every few weeks," says the police report. In the Courier, "he knew what he did was wrong and that he is addicted to heroin." Later in the police report, ""Pierce indicated he felt what he did was wrong, but didn't feel like he was impaired, though he admitted to having a problem."

Mr Pierce's father, the Senator, gets three grafs to characterize his son's problem as addiction that deserves support and sympathy -- rather than endangering the public by operating a vehicle while impaired, for which he was actually arrested. He expresses concern that the news might hurt the wife and kids -- the same wife who called the cops to have the perp removed. I didn't notice a quote from the wife, which might have been interesting too.

It's natural that there's more interest in what Mr Pierce's powerful father has to say. What's not natural is holding the story for a day to gather only sympathetic quotes, or trimming out ugly details that would certainly appear in any ordinary crime story. I have to wonder whether Mr Bluemke or Mr Gann have friends or relations who'd like to say something in their defense -- in public, ahead of jury selection. (The friends and family of Mr Lopez-Nava, of course, probably don't speak English, so for the paper, they don't exist.) But see, they're not interesting enough, so they don't get that opportunity.

The Pierce story reeks of special treatment for the powerful and privileged -- exactly the sort of thing an independent, protected Fourth Estate was designed to resist. This does not say good things for the new Courier editorial team.

Elementary school mural getting a 'lighter' facelift

Cindy and Paula did a good job letting Councilman Blair vent on race, clearly pointing up the core of the story on criticism of the Miller Valley School mural. I have to wonder whether Mr Blair should really get so much credit for riling people up -- I'm not wild about that mural myself, for quite different reasons -- but given his history of race-baiting and generally dumbass remarks in public, he deserves it. "Diversity, it's a word I can't stand." Now there's a great little campaign bumper sticker!

I dislike the Miller Valley mural for the same reason I dislike the old mural in Council chambers -- pointless, self-congratulatory sentimentality and not particularly good art. I'm also getting a little tired of seeing murals from a single source all over town. Mr Wall is making a personal career on public money meant to support diverse community projects. If we're gonna do this and celebrate diversity, let's spread the wealth to some diverse artists and styles. Better yet, let's quit with the murals already. Remember the old Hillside grocery mural? I like it better now.

There is one common criticism the project doesn't deserve, though, and that's historic desecration. Miller Valley School is an historic structure, yes, built in 1916, but the muralized addition is clearly no older than the 1960s and not historically or architecturally significant.

What the reporters apparently did not explore is the shocking spinelessness of school officials in changing the mural to better suit the racists. In a paper known for an ironclad rule against the passive voice, that voice is used to hide who ordered the changes. I know Mr Wall would never alter the art on his own in this fashion.

PS, 3:30pm: Wow, 122 comments so far! And notice how many of them are under what look like real names. Good show, readers! Steve Stockmar also has a column up on the subject.

Update, Friday: Comment count now over 200, and over 50 on the editorial!

Another missing story

From the Republic, an incident on Sunday night: Vandals tag 18 vehicles, 3 homes in Prescott Valley is an unedited PD press release, something the Courier knows how to do, and timely in terms of finding the perps. The Courier should have run it yesterday.

Ditto this: YCSO Seeking Hit and Run Vehicle/Suspects

Update, Friday: They show up today, here and here. Perhaps the editor would like to explain why his local crime stories are coming in so far behind other outlets.