Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Times-Picayune Clamors for an Arrest in New Orleans Shooting

After the shootings on New Orleans' Bourbon Street Sunday morning, it's frustrating to see how the Times-Picayune led Wednesday's print edition:

Factually accurate? Yes. Helpful? No.

The article gave the latest information on various aspects of the shooting and the investigation -- useful stuff, but with no huge development or breakthrough. (Note: two major developments have happened since then, on Wednesday: the police released two photos and the name of a person of interest, and the most severely injured victim died).

Of course everyone hopes that the perpetrators are caught and brought to justice, and of course many are eager for this to happen promptly. And the Times-Picayune has some legitimate gripes about the police releasing some information too slowly.

But leading the paper with this story, with this headline, is pushing it in my book. This is a headline that says "there isn't news of big progress from the police, and we think that fact itself is such news that we're going to make it the top story."

All the information in the story belonged in the paper, but given the lack of major developments, putting it at the top, with that headline, is effectively clamoring for an arrest. It's suggesting to the reader that there ought to be an arrest, and it's news that there isn't one.

It's things like these that help create pressures on mayors and police departments and prosecutors to do bad things in an investigation.

I'm worked up about this because I watched the The Central Park Five documentary yesterday. That was a vastly different situation, but one of the lessons of that case (and so many others) is that we shouldn't be simply clamoring for an immediate suspect or arrest (unless it is a situation where there is reason to believe the police are not working hard on the case, which is not the situation here).