Monday, October 21, 2013

Skidmore debate to be pre-empted by Justice for Darryl rally tonight

Tonight the Skidmore College Republicans and College Democrats are holding a candidate forum from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Spa in Case Center. All of the city candidates will attend and give a three-minute speech. After, the students and public will have the chance to talk with the individual candidates.
All are welcome.
Before the forum, the Committee for Justice for Darryl will hand out information flyers demanding an independent investigation regarding the Aug. 31 police pursuit that left 21-year-old Mount in a coma from which he has not awoken.
According to a press release sent out by local blogger and rabble-rouser John Tighe, the fliers will target the current Public Safety Commissioner Christian Mathiesen, who has insisted there is no need for an outside investigation.
Here's a segment from the press release:
We pledge as a group and individually to keep the handing out of flyers low key and non- accusatory, we will not impede traffic either by motorist and or pedestrians. We believe that this is a public meeting and governed by the New York State open meeting laws. We are expressing our first amendment rights in a respectful, nondisruptive and peaceful way.
Please join us and demand a real change from the police and public officials.
The Committee for Justice for Darryl
I will probably pop by and snap a few photos tonight. 
In other news, there were some very interesting statements made during the public comment period at the City Council meeting last Tuesday that The Saratogian will be digging into shortly. Several people spoke about unsavory encounters with city police, including violence and racism. If you want to hear and see what they said first-hand, go here and click on the second webcast from the top which starts at 7 p.m.
Other cities have come up with creative solutions to rein in their police officers. The Minneapolis City Council recently decided it was going to make its police department wear body cameras to save the city money. In the past five years, the city settled police misconduct lawsuits for around $8 million, and thought the body camera tactic might just save them some money.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

This isn't a popularity contest; it's journalism

I want to take a moment to respond to all the criticism regarding Darryl Mount and our coverage of this story.

My job as a journalist is to report the various sides of a story, regardless if I agree with them or not, just like it is the job of law enforcement to investigate a serious accident, even if the person injured was a 21-year-old with a criminal past. 

It’s my job to ask questions and to report back to you on what I’ve learned. Sometimes the facts are indisputable. But many of the things people tell me are their opinions, and it’s your job as readers to sort them out and make up your own minds. 

Up until the most recent article, our coverage of the police pursuit that ended with a young man in a coma was lacking, because it was based solely on what we were told by the police department.

The first time we report anything that is not from the police is the fourth article, when reporter Lucian McCarty speaks with Darryl’s family. This story garners very little information but reveals that the family believes there is more to the story and that they are pushing for an independent investigation.

Here are the stories:

·         Aug. 31 – The first story comes out, based solely on what police have told the media.
·         Sept. 1 – The follow-up story comes out and there is no mention yet of scaffolding, again it is based on the information police have released to the media.
·         Sept. 2 – For the first time police say Mount fell from scaffolding; the police are the only sources we have used.
·         Sept. 3 – Coverage of Justice for Darryl rally in front of City Hall. His family declines to comment on what they believe happened.
·         Sept. 7 – A brief article is released giving the detail of a fundraiser for Mount.
·         Sept. 10 – Police refute police brutality allegations concerning made at a City Council meeting by Guy Pierce about himself, as well as allegations that Mount was abused.
·         Sept. 23 – My story with Mount’s family speaking out on the day of a fund-raiser on his behalf.

As far as I was concerned there was more to the story, a side that the mainstream media hadn’t reported. So when Darryl’s aunt agreed to sit down with me for an hour-long, on-the-record conversation, I paid her the same courtesy that I pay everyone else. No more and no less. I listened and I asked questions, followed up with the attorney and wrote a story.

It was an unpopular story with commenters, but I’ve never been much for popularity contests. The negative comments escalated so quickly about Darryl and his family that we just turned them off.
Anyone can leave a putrid comment in the ease of their anonymity; can say that Darryl got what he deserved, that his family are gold diggers. But remember that a culture is not judged by how well we treat the privileged; it’s judged on how we treat the poor, the impoverished, the outsiders. It’s easy to treat a celebrity or millionaire with respect and equity, but how are you going to treat the underdog?

I understand it’s difficult to sympathize with a guy on parole, but I refuse to accept that a criminal past excuses, justifies or condones abuse of any kind. Our job is to keep digging and to find the truth, beyond the official voices.

A civil society has standards of conduct and when they break down we are all at risk.

The press is one vehicle to monitor, investigate and report abuse or suspicion of abuse. I refuse to partake in packaged journalism or cite the same three groups over and over. I’ll find out for myself and if that makes me an outsider, then I’m probably doing my job right.

"I have this sort of heuristic view that journalism, we possibly offer hope because the world is clearly run by total nincompoops more than ever. … Not that journalism is always wonderful, it's not, but at least we offer some way out, some integrity.” — Seymour Hersh, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter, in The Guardian