Police Chief Says He'll Decide Who Is Or Isn't A Real Journalist

from the anyone-disagreeing-will-be-put-on-the-'isn't'-list dept

Good news, citizens. The police are here to tell you who the real journalists are.

Sheboygan’s Police Chief, Chris Domagalski, corrects errors in a story circulating on social media this week, accusing his department of withholding information from the community. The story involved the arrest of a Sheboygan man facing several felony drug charges, resisting arrest, and biting an officer at Erie and North 14th Street.


Domagalski, armed with facts, and the law, spoke out about the accusations, encouraging the community to be very careful about where they get their news – saying “Because you have a website and a facebook page, does not make you a journalist. When you engage in repeated unethical conduct, your character is revealed, and people should weigh that in their decision about whether they rely on you for news.”

This is true… partly. A website and a Facebook page does not automatically make someone a journalist. But having only a website and a Facebook page does not disqualify someone from being a journalist. There are plenty of journalists out there who’ve never written anything on a printed page. There are plenty of people committing journalism without ever intending to, and a lot of that revolves around requesting public records.

The journalist, who Chief Domagalski says isn’t one, wrote an article about this arrest, suggesting the refusal to turn over recordings of the arrest was a sign of more widespread misconduct within the force.

There’s not enough information out there to state definitively which side of the story is more credible. It must be noted there’s no love shown for the unnamed “non-journalist” in this article’s comment thread, suggesting someone who has aimed for muckraker but settled for constant annoyance.

Unfortunately, the writer for WHBL Radio seems inclined to consider only those who show tons of deference to police officials to be real journalists. Those that question the actions and motives of government entities are nothing more than non-journalist interlopers.

Some of that sentiment can be picked up in the first sentence of the second quoted paragraph:

Domagalski, armed with facts, and the law…

That’s some credible stenography right there. Then again, someone without even a Facebook page or a website could have transcribed Domagalski’s statement without pausing to infer the chief was wholly in the right.

There’s more, though.

The Sheboygan Police Department has a number of different ways to communicate factual, verified information to the public, including services like Nixle, which will push information out as text messages or email, AND a service powered by LexisNexis, which provides real-time mapping of police calls within the city.   

They also maintain a social media presence on facebook and twitter, and communicate regularly with credible journalists in Sheboygan, who can accurately communicate important information about the community with the public.

Apparently, people employed by WHBL will also be determining who is or isn’t a “credible journalist.” Defined in these surrounding terms, it will be those who publish whatever the PD provides, even if it appears to contradict what has been captured on video or gleaned from public records.

I prefer my journalists to show distance, rather than deference, when covering controversial incidents involving public servants. And I don’t give a damn if the journalists I read have nothing more than a WordPress blog and a Muckrock account. What I find less than credible is coverage of police press conferences that read like low-key fan fiction — especially ones that idolize authority figures while trotting out self-congratulatory prose. The police chief is implying he prefers deference in his journalists, and WHBL is only too happy to comply.

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Comments on “Police Chief Says He'll Decide Who Is Or Isn't A Real Journalist”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: So Sorry..

So sorry, but you must be living under a rock. That’s exactly how most news media work. Most news services uncritically report what a single side of the story writes or says regardless of factual or contextual accuracy. Usually it’s the side the journalist or news organization has overt sympathies, advertising, or their boss telling them what to report (eg Rupert Murdock telling Fox News he wouldn’t answer questions on the phone tapping scandal in Britain. Sudden diversionary stories when someone in political power is pushing through unpopular legislation. Mainstream news sources duped by false news reports thanks to not checking facts. Republished press releases without bothering to editorialize the spin.)

The powers that be very much do control the media, and that’s why they’re scared to death about “rogue journalists” and “citizen activists” that circumvent their mouth pieces.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

What Law?

U.S. Constitution – Amendment 1

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

I have read that several times, and I am still in a quandary as to the definition stated there of what the press is. I realize that when the Amendment was written, the only form was print, but since then technology has come along and radio and TV and yet other mediums have come to pass, and been credited with ‘press’ credentials, including bloggers. Today, yet more mediums have come to pass, and in the future there will be others.

Where is it written in law that anyone can determine what the ‘press’ is without violating this Amendment. Why do people think (talking about Law Enforcement and Legislators and other elected officials here) who may or may not be journalists (aka the ‘press’).

Believe what is written (or spoken) or not, argue against what is written (or spoken) if one wishes to, but back it up with credible (not everything one writes or says is credible) evidence and let MORE speech and presentation of evidence be the deciding factor.

Just because someone with some ‘authoritay’, be it law enforcement or legislator or other elected official, says something is so, does not make it so. The same as the stenographic ‘press’ responding to those entities, say it is so, does not make it so.

Lay out the facts, back them up with credible evidence, then the populace will decide whether to believe or not. Or, go into court and present your evidence.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: What Law?

You’re close and yet correct in your conclusion at the same time. The inaccuracy is saying that the press quite literally meant the device. By the time it was written, the term “press” meant publishing in general. Only pointing this out because your explanation still leaves the need to make a leap from the mention of a device to general principle that extends beyond just the device.

However, the usage of “press” to apply to a profession encompassing reporters, journalists, photographers, and talking heads did not occur until the 20th Century. So, anyone telling you that “the press” is the only institution mentioned in the 1st Amendment is likely an ignorant journalist (apologies for the redundancy). The 1st Amendment as written thus applies to the dissemination of information, not the collection of it.

polijunkie100 says:

Re: What Law?

The founders were very educated fellows who understood the subtle differences between spoken and written communication. “The Press”, as referenced in the First Amendment, is anyone who undertakes to publish their writing. In their time, if you wanted to publish anything, even just a political handbill, you had to press ink onto paper. So, to own a press meant you had the power to publish and were guaranteed the freedom to do so.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: What Law?

I am given to understand that the phrase “freedom of the press” in that context would, at the time, have been understood to mean “freedom of access to the printing press”, i.e., to the means of publication.

A sense of “the press” meaning “the people who are in the profession of reporting on news” apparently did not come along until considerably later.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Today's Lesson: The Importance of Proper Comma Usage

I’m sorry, do you mean that Domagalski knows or cares about the difference, or does?

  • Or are you suggesting that the author might make a different point (or understands that there is a different point to be made, or for that matter care) using your methodology?
  • Or are you pointing to the fact that Phillip Bock, USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin, the author of the quote, is not actually part of the press?
  • Or maybe that Phillip Bock, USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin is actually a stenographer, and that he has no interest in uncovering facts and doing a reasonable job of analysis?

A) I’m confused, (but only sort of).

B) Does that acquiesce to your bullet point follow up?


Anion says:

Re: Re: Re:

And on the points you’ve made in this discussion, I agree wholeheartedly. I support a free press; I do not support the openly biased press we have now, who are more interested in pushing a narrative and becoming famous than they are in actually reporting factual news.

It still absolutely stuns me that we saw written proof that today’s “journalists” are nothing more than mouthpieces for one political party, and over and over again they report stories proven to be hoaxes, and yet people still defend them as some sort of crusaders for freedom and truth.

Deb (user link) says:

Sheboygan Police Chief Domagalski

If you take the time to listen to the ENTIRE interview here (http://whbl.com/news/articles/2017/sep/01/sheboygan-police-chief-having-a-website-and-facebook-page-doesnt-make-you-a-journalist) you will know that the Sheboygan PD has a history of dealing with this particular “wanna be” journalist who is known to make up what he doesn’t know all with the goal of getting website hits. He also has a history of interfering in emergency situations in his attempt to get a sensational photo of a dead person or critically injured person to post on his site–sometimes before family has had a chance of being notified. I have to admire Chief Domagalski’s restraint in not naming this individual. Once the citizens of Sheboygan County realize who said “journalist” is, they will be behind the chief 100%.

Anonymous Coward says:

Stupid TD you only harm yourself

“A website and a Facebook page does not automatically make someone a journalist.”

The problem is that the distinction is being made at all, even by you TD.

Anyone, anywhere, as per the first can become the press or a part of the press at any moment of their choosing. It does not matter if they are just offering verbal, visual, audio, or video recorded testimony, information, or evidence.

This is a sign of how ignorant TD any many others have become on this subject.

The 1st is so clear that the US government cannot constitutionally charge any citizen of the US with criminal charges for anything they give to the press no matter how super duper fucking super state security secret it is classified to be!

All they can “constitutionally do” is fire people for breach of contract and civilly sue them for damages in court.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Stupid TD you only harm yourself

Also, language has shifted since the constitution was written, an press, meant the printing press, and so freedom of the press meant the freedom to print, or have printed your work, and distribute it however you want. Using the modern meaning allows debate over who is or is not a journalist, and therefore who can publish stories.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Stupid TD you only harm yourself

That is an interesting interpretation.

“an press” is not part of the language in the Constitution. “the press” is. I do agree with your interpretation that the 1st does protect the “liberty” of doing just exactly what you say it does. But your interpretation seems to imply that it is “explicitly” talking about the press machine itself, which I do not believe is the case. Based on the writings of the founders when asked, they are clearly referencing “the press” as a general term for any individual, institution, or enterprise about the business of sharing information in any public capacity to the citizens at large!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Stupid TD you only harm yourself

What the were not referencing was newspapers in particular, but paper publication in general. Freedom of speech and freedom of the press covered the two main ways of disseminating information available to people. Writing had largely become a means of private communication and record keeping at that time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Stupid TD you only harm yourself

The constitution is referencing speech and printing as separate issues, in what seems a slightly clumsy way of saying people are free to make their ideas and stories public by any and all available means. Those were the two ways of making things public available at the time. Also, reading it as a reference to the use of a printing press is broader than via a publishing institute, as it include buying, building or hiring a press to publish at your own expense, and without requiring the agreement of someone else to get a work printed.

Beldar (user link) says:

We're ALL journalists

The First Amendment doesn’t use the word “journalist,” and the Founders clearly intended its protections to apply to everyone within the jurisdictional authority of the United States, meaning every Tom, Dick, or Harriet who could find a soapbox to stand on and a corner to place it upon.

Any time anyone claims to you that “The Press” or “Journalists” have some special rights or privileges under the First Amendment, the proper response is a loud raspberry and scorn.

Tom (profile) says:

Cushing's journalistic strawman

Tim Cushing almost wins a classic strawman argument, but nowhere does Domagalski say that “having only a website and a Facebook page” disqualifies someone from being a journalist, as Cushing implies that he said.

Cushing might want to give thoughtful consideration, though, to Domagalski’s observation that “When you engage in repeated unethical conduct, your character is revealed, and people should weigh that in their decision about whether they rely on you for news.”

Donald Sensing says:

There is no qualification to be a journalist

To begin, the First Amendment does not mention journalism or journalists. It applies equally to everyone in the country, not to a particular occupation in particular.

Second, journalism is a job, not a profession. I have a diploma from an accredited journalism school, and I can tell you that there is no particular skill to it that is particularly difficult or unobtainable by average people.

I wrote at some length about this some years ago, see here: http://senseofevents.blogspot.co.uk/2010/04/court-to-bloggers-get-stuffed.html

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