Are ‘black’ criminals more likley to appear in the newspaper?

 Apparently, yes.

Smile Politely, Champaign-Urbana’s online alternative newspaper, has a story that tried to show that the newspaper disproportionately covers black people.

My thoughts. The criminal justice system disproportionately prosecutes the types of crimes committed by black people — being outside while drink and fighting in the streets, etc — over the kind of crimes committed by white people — bank fraud by example. How many more people have been hurt by bank fraud than by getting drunk and fighting in the street?

The News-Gazette follows the same tired and subjective formula followed by newspapers all across America, including the Journal Star. They send a reporter at least once a day to read the daily incident reports filled out by police. If they read a report that involved violence or property crimes over a certain amount, they will cover it. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t get covered. Depending on how visually oriented the newspaper is, they will run a photo of whatever dude or dudette gets arrested.

This is what does. One reporter — me, since I am the only reporter — visits the police station at least three or four times a week. I write a very brief summary of every single police report I see. I do not use names. I do not use complete addresses. This is true even if you are arrested. I do this because not everyone arrested is guilty. And cops are notorious for leaving facts out of police reports that do not support guilt.

And besides, when I leave names out, it makes it easier for me to make fun of people. Let’s face it, criminals are stupidly entertaining. But victims can be ridiculously stupid as well. And when I report that someone is an idiot — by name — I get threatened with lawsuits. Bad news.

It’s also an egalitarian approach. No one can accuse me of targeting black people. I report on everything.

In the end, the same rule of thumb applies: If you don’t want your name to show up in the paper, you ought to not be out committing crimes, Sorry, if that doesn’t seem very forward thinking or egalitarian. But it’s the truth. It is the criminals who live and ply their trade in Champaign County who are responsible for the racial makeup of the News-Gazette’s blotter, not the News-Gazette.

Full disclosure: I used to write for The County Star, which is owned by the same company that owns the News-Gazette. / 



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