Local Fox Affiliate's Reaction To Brutal Police Beating Is A Dereliction Of Its Duty

from the the-fourth-estate dept

There tends to be a great deal of talk these days about how the media influences public discourse. Most of these conversations tend towards the inane, with the dichotomy of our political affiliations directly deciding how we see the media’s influence. One political side will complain that the media leans one way, while the other complains likewise. Everyone is working from a different set of “facts,” causing the whole conversation to devolve into a sporting event, with each side rooting for its own team and proclaiming an underdog type of branding for their team against the horde of media others.

The reality is much more nefarious and stark. The larger media, once at least mildly interested in paying lip-service to being the “fourth estate” and holding government and public institutions accountable to the general public is today anything but. Instead, news media today is far more interested in sensationalism without substance and a plodding prostration before government over being an information source for the public. You can see this best in the media’s mindframe when reporting on police activity. A wonderfully brutal recent example of this is one local Fox outlet’s reporting on a police chase that should have ended when the suspect willingly stopped his vehicle and surrendered by lying on the ground. Indeed, that appears to be how the cameraman recording the event would have preferred the reporting on the story to have ended.

What you see is the suspect surrendering, exiting the vehicle, lying upon the ground as instructed, and then being pummeled for a brief moment before the camera quickly zooms out and renders the action indiscernible. Why the camera operator did so remains unanswered, but we know from other footage captured by an NBC affliate that the police spent the next half-a-minute or so beating the shit out of a man who was lying surrendered on the pavement. Were we to need to rely on the Fox footage to determine what had happened, we wouldn’t have this full picture of the beating in our minds. Instead, we’d have a moment or two of the violence, which could quite possibly be excused and waived off by what would be a typical dismissal by the authorities.

Indeed, in that same local Fox affiliate’s own reporting on the controversey, the public is informed:

“[Mass. State Police] will also review the apprehension of the suspect, to determine whether the level of force deployed during the arrest was appropriate,” FOX25 has been told.

And quoting the District Attorney’s office:

“I think anyone who looks at the video is disturbed by it, but we don’t jump to conclusions,” Nashua Police said. “We need to find out what happened.”

The Fox affiliate’s linked story, castrated by its own camera operator’s perhaps subconcious choice to protect the authorities from damning footage, offers no further comment on the footage, the controversy, or the beating the man took at the hands of police. The news anchors mention that the public is calling the station about the beating the man took and say they are asking police for an explanation.

But that camera pulling back, small detail as it may seem, certainly feels emblematic of a very real problem. For a news organization covering a story about a police chase, there must be no greater need for camera footage than the culmination of that chase. It’s the climax of the story. Yet, the moment the controversial actions by the police begin, the camera pans far back. I wouldn’t mean to suggest that this reaction is one purposefully trying to keep the public uninformed, but it certainly is the reaction of someone not trained specifically to do the job of holding government and the authorities accountable.

That’s the shift that’s happened in media these past few decades. That’s the bias about which you should be concerned. If the mass media no longer serves the public, it serves no purpose at all.

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Comments on “Local Fox Affiliate's Reaction To Brutal Police Beating Is A Dereliction Of Its Duty”

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Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Maybe it is an informational move by the cameraman.

Deference to authority is a conservative position, and Fox is avowedly conservative. That said, the rule of law should be paramount, and people who abuse their positions of authority ought to be held to account for it.

The conservative movement has gone so far overboard that a) they call me a Socialist (I’m not) and b) they’re turning into the totalitarian monster they’re afraid of.

To get back on track and become the sane and sober stewards of responsibility they are supposed to be they’ll have to put upholding the rule of law front and centre. This means due process trumps all and we don’t just blindly obey the authorities, we hold them to account.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

If anything the public is better informed about these issues than any time before.

Thanks to “citizen journalism” aka people withe camera phones. Not “because of professional” journalists. We hear Comey complaining about police being held to account by “viral videos” not by reporters.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

the ONLY reason the public is ‘better informed’ about these incidents is because of CITIZEN’s viral videos going online…
c’mon, get real; it isn’t as if the mainstream media is lying in wait, doing investigative reporting, and otherwise actually doing their jobs to uncover these abuses…
these abuses are SOMETIMES uncovered because of the CITIZENS, NOT the media…

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Partly true. Not “reposts” but certainly links and quotes.

But TD offers references to other stories WITH re-interpretations, corrections, and different opinions shared, and hypocrisies exposed. You know, the things that this article points our are missing in the mainstream.

Basically, among the main value-adds of Techdirt is fixing the news that is broken. And TD also has a tremendous amount of original stories, original analysis, and fact checking as well.

So, I did “go figure”, and it didn’t look good on you.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

That’s the fallacy of false balance. The left wants people to stop being dicks to the weak. The right wants people to stop being dicks to the powerful.

Occasionally the right tries to cast themselves as the weak, like with all the bathroom bills, but its usually transparent enough that a little critical thought is all it takes to see through it.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

The right likes to kid itself that it’s for people’s rights. The small guy against big gov’t. Defend the constitution, yada yada.

But it’s all talk and bluster. Conservative tendencies are correlated to authoritarianism tendencies, and so tend to support shows of force: stronger and larger police, or the military whether right or wrong.

The only constitutional right they really legislate is the second amendment. The fourth and fifth are too complicated for public comprehension, and even the first manages to baffle much of the public, who frequently conflate criticism or shaming with censorship.

Meanwhile, they’ve got a hypocritical boner for limiting the rights of women or any minority or marginalized group.

All that eventually trickles out of the right’s self-delusion of being David against Goliath is: lower taxes on the rich and lots of guns.

Well, at least I benefit from one of those two things.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Wow, this is so wrong as to be funny if it weren’t the view held by many low information voters. Libs are the ones that make it illegal to have a 32 oz drink. Libs are as much about controlling people’s behavior as anyone else. You just prefer their type of control. PRoblem is, their type of control is very dangerous. It will leave you defenseless and at the mercy of the government.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Ahem! Aren’t we forgetting the compulsory speech, safe spaces and other nonsense being foisted on us? I’m in Britain, where a man had cops come to his door because he taught his dog to do a Hitler salute to “Sieg Heil”!


Bad taste jokes should not have resulted in such an overboard response. Blaming the Left is not sufficient to explain this: we’ve had a Tory government for six years.

Authoritarians will be authoritarians; call it out for what it is and don’t blame either side. Divide and conquer is the oldest trick in the book and unfortunately for us it works. Don’t let it slide when either a right wing authoritarian or a left wing authoritarian oversteps the mark, because ultimately it doesn’t matter which side the authoritarian claims to be on, they’ll still be walking all over us, either way.

freedomfan (profile) says:

If the mass media no longer serves the public, it serves no purpose at all.

The “mass media” isn’t obligated to “serve the public”. Nevermind that neither of those terms is sufficiently well defined for any such supposed obligation to mean much, something not serving the purpose one might prefer doesn’t mean it doesn’t serve a purpose. Not that I, too, wouldn’t prefer that the public at least be educated (directly) from media coverage of events. But, the quoted statement is something I cannot agree with.

Of course, I totally agree that the Fox cameraman in question did a poor job in that case. Of course, local TV stations often have a too-cozy relationship with local authorities that minimizes other important stories. How many TV stations send reporters and cameras to cover arrests and perp walks (sometimes wholly staged), with no one reporting that the police called up the station? My guess: All of them. Sure, a perp walk might mean a salacious 8 second clip (with essentially no hard news value), but isn’t it also news that the police arrange such an event around the media coverage of it, instead of just doing their jobs without making publicity a consideration?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Not at all. The press of yesteryear was certainly imperfect — often in precisely the same way as it is now.

However, the press of yesteryear was also a time when there was real and serious competition and diversity in the press. With consolidation and the monetization of news — turning it into entertainment — this diversity is gone.

Diversity is important because not all news outlets were flawed in the same way, and it was possible to glean some actual truth from the datastream.

Certain publications were highly valued because while they weren’t free of bias, they were careful about getting their facts right. These outlets collectively thought of themselves as a necessary “fourth branch” of government and, as flawed as they were, they took that pretty seriously.

All of the went away years ago.

I’m not saying that the mainstream press used to be awesome and now sucks. I’m saying that they used to practice journalism and now don’t.

Anonymous Coward says:

You’re right, this has been happening over the last few decades. … if by ‘few’ you mean “5 or more”. You really REALLY need to read “Into the Buzzsaw“, published more than a decade ago, and talking about media issues from 3 or more decades before that.

Corporate media has been progressively getting lazier, sloppier, and more beholden, decade by decade. Desperate to hang onto the free information source that the government is, “pressed by the bottom line” to cut newsroom staffs, and so on.

What makes life different a dozen years after Buzzsaw is the rise of blogging, the rise of YouTube, and the rise in Whistle Blowing. In part, these things have risen precisely because of the void left by Mass Media’s absence from the field.

This didn’t happen suddenly, and anyone trying to claim that the bloggers are eating the corporate media’s news-budget lunch is only a result of the corporations’ having gotten up and walked away from all the meatier stories.

Shilling says:

According to the American press institute journalism is to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their government.

So I gather this particular story went from journalism straight to entertainment the moment to camera zoomed out. Now maybe these are just internal guidelines but not correct ones from my POV.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m not reading the ‘mass media’ bit the same way other people are, I guess. Seems like broad emotive phrasing, not a logical proposition meant for close analysis. I just took it as “If the press doesn’t serve the function that it claims to serve, then it’s not really ‘the press’.” Works for me. ‘Plodding prostration’, on the other hand…

Anonymous Coward says:

A New Hampshire State Police trooper and a Massachusetts State Police trooper were placed on leave just one day after live SkyFox video showed officers punching a suspect at the end of a police chase.

Fairly standard wording I suppose, but does it sound maybe the tiniest bit like they’re hinting at having been the ones to break the story and reveal the assault?


Aidian says:

A perspective from inside duh mainstream media....

In the modern media environment that’s not easy to do. All the disruption to the media landscape over the last generation has made newsrooms real, real thin.

The companies that own your local news operations may be scum (some are, some aren’t, some actually are committed to journalism, all are companies with all that entails) but the fact is they’re making less money now than in the past despite having cut expenses to the bone.

Working in major market TV I’d routinely be covering a eight county area spanning a couple hundred miles. Total population 1.2 million. On a weekend I’d have three reporters. One of them anchored the morning shows and then would work a half day reporting. One worked 11-7, one 3-12. I had shows at 5, 6, 10, & 11 to fill with new local news. Tell me how much in depth reporting you can get done.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: A perspective from inside duh mainstream media....

“the fact is they’re making less money now than in the past”

And the reason that they’re making less money now is because they’re losing audience. The reason they’re losing audience is that they stopped doing their jobs decades ago, when major corporations started buying them all.

The “disruption” they like to complain about was not something that threatened their existence. If the quality of their work had not plummeted, they could have retained their position.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is my local affiliate. they haven’t reported real news in generations, but let me tell you for hours and hours about the local sports team what they ate, and how much air was in the footballs. A lot of people here were saying it was a good thing the cops were punching the guy to “teach him a lesson”. Sometimes I get a little disturbed about how people think that other people need to be taught lessons, then I remember that Massachusetts and New Hampshire aren’t these liberal bastions people make them out to be.

djl47 (profile) says:

I suspect Fox has a corporate policy of zooming out whenever the police have their weapons aimed at someone. Anyone remember a few years ago when Fox broadcast a shooting live. I remember Shepard Smith being visibly shaken by it. It’s hard to know if the announcer was narrating the video or reading what someone was entering into a teleprompter. Either way it was poor journalism but I doubt they were trying to cover up police misconduct

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

” zooming out whenever the police have their weapons aimed at someone”

I agree this is a likely explanation. Anyone remember the truck hijack that took place in Dallas some years ago? Press filmed closeups of the entire event, including closeups of the hijacker talking to the captive driver, for several hours and through more than one county, in fact people were turning out along the route to watch it. Eventually the truck came to a stop on a highway. The driver (hostage) staggered out and ran away (she was let go by the hostage taker). At that point the cameras panned away, and the next substantive thing we learned the bad guy had been shot dead refusing to give himself up. There is an issue of showing potential deaths and violence live, especially as this was in the middle of a Sunday afternoon and all local channels switched to it.

John85851 (profile) says:

Re: Fox 25's response

I think a more accurate statement to explain the actions would be:
“Well, we would have kept zoomed in, but the police told us over the radio that if we didn’t zoom out we wouldn’t be invited to any more press conferences and the other local stations would get the news before us. So we need to be polite to the powers-that-be lest we find ourselves shut out of other press junkets.”

Anonymous Coward says:

“If the mass media no longer serves the public, it serves no purpose at all.”

That’s only true if you consider the bad guys as being non-Americans, or not part of the American “Public.”

Mass media serves a small portion of the American public exceptionally well.

The 1% will tell you; privately, that their mass media holdings are doing exceptionally well in dis-informing the rabble and spreading think-tanked bullshit as witnessed gospel.

Mass media serves a very serious purpose for those who seek the rewards and power that come with fascism. Mass media and its associated propaganda methods are in fact, essential tools in the war against democracy.

It is only of “no purpose at all”, to We The People – the 99%, for, in its present incarnation, it removes the ability of the American Public to make informed decisions.

It is now best described as the Truth Free Press – a Pavlovian bell through which the wealthy can direct the emotions and reactions of the public on a daily basis.

sc77 (profile) says:

This is classic Rupert Murdoch tactics – a heartless, unconscionable bastard only interested in cash grabs, not truth or justice or equality – and certainly not compassion.

Meh. The old fart will be dead soon enough. Maybe then, at least, some forms of media will finally be allowed to clean their act up.

As for me, I threw out my tv years ago, stopped buying newspapers and magazines and stopped turning on the radio. It’s amazing how much more calm life became after that.

I can think without being told what to think, clothe myself without being told what to wear, can have my own opinions without being told what they ‘should’ be and, most importantly, I’m not force fed a constant stream of violent images labelled ‘news’ as a source of ‘entertainment’ – which is how Murdoch – disgustingly – sees all such tragedies.

It was my personal form of protest against the likes of the Murdochs in the world.

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Sometime we do have surveillance from the same outfit that employs the off-duty problem. And at lest a sensible judge. What is still missing is automatic charges against officers, like there are (and then some) for everyone else. Or rather more particularly, certainly subsets of everyone else.

Anonymous Coward says:

Cops wonder why they have an image problem

Anyone has ever been pulled over by the cops for such mundane things as speeding, out of date tags or inspection sticker can attest that cops have a very poor attitude to the public. You would think you shot the Pope by the way they treat you for routine stops. Yet I see cops roll through stop signs, run yellow lights, pass me speeding on interstates and many other things they disdain when Joe Public does it.

Anonymous Coward says:

I can almost imagine the cop going something like this:
“This is for making us, chase you mo****f****r! I should have been on patrol, relaxing, not chasing down s**ts like you!”

Basically the guy was beaten on for disturbing the cops with his transgression (disrespect of cop’s beauty sleep time). The day when a cop beats citizens for alerting him/her of an in-progress incident is not far off, thus bothering them.

It’s like cops no longer have the duty to maintain order and protect… Oh… Yeah, I forgot, in the US they don’t.

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