Saturday, September 29, 2007

Further Evidence of the Beacon Journal's Decline

This week has not been a happy one for Beacon Journal readers. Set aside news of staffers leaving in order to begin looking for a new job, or PD buying billboard space to brag about poaching Terry Pluto. Set aside the PD doing the blog thing right and the BJ bloggers providing a constant source of embarrassment. The the level of journalism in the paper this week was painful to behold.

I've already noted that the story about police cameras around the city involved little more than transcribing the press release. I just watched News Night Akron where Jody Miller One of many questions

The writer of that article, Rich Armon, Katie Byard is better than that story. I assume the questions weren't answered because the paper is so badly understaffed. That excuse won't work for this travesty written about a high profile criminal case:

    Police may have conducted an illegal search of the home of an Akron Public Schools administrator when they seized evidence later used to charge her with illegally keeping a pit bull and misdemeanor drug offenses, a lawyer claimed in a court hearing Thursday.
This is just awful. Defense attorneys file suppression motions all the time. The overwhelming majority are denied. Filing the motion is part of going through the motions. What's more, the motion hasn't even been filed yet. This is a defense attorney saying he "intends" to file a motion. We don't even know what his grounds will be. And given that the police searched pursuant a warrant, the search is most likely valid.

On top of that, the case has the makings of Demetrus Vinson II -- at least that's how attorney Orlando Williams seems intent on playing it. The defendant, Donna Wheeler, plead "not guilty." Framing the story as the search possibly being illegal is like writing "Donna Wheeler may be innocent." Factually correct with that "may be" slipped in there, but completely wrong in tone, and risking unnecessarily inflaming people.

Then there was the decision to publish the list of voters whose absentee ballots were not counted. I'm still puzzled as to how the names and precincts of the individual voters constitutes news. But I would certainly be uncomfortable if it happened to me.

So not a banner week for the BJ. At this rate, no one is likely to blog ABJ in a post anytime soon.


Anonymous said...

I'm not connecting all the dots on this.
I-- Katie Byard (not Rich Armon) -- posted the blurb on about the city of Akron installing more surveillance cameras.
I may not be reading your posting right, but it sounds like Rich is taking the hit for something I did. (Maybe the piece was mislabled on the Web site.)
I grant you the piece wasn't expanded much beyond what was available in the city's news release. (That said, I did include some additional stuff I got from city folks.)
The breaking news section of -- where you apparently saw this blurb -- is for breaking news. A priority is getting the news up.
When deciding whether to do additional reporting -- for the Web or the print edition -- I must look at a variety of issues, most important of which is doing what I can to serve the largest number of readers under the time constraints of my shift.
This news from the city was released at about 3 p.m. There wasn't much time before the end of the city's business day to delve into this subject in any great detail.
And, interstingly, I actually did ask about the decision-making process that went into camera placement. I didn't get much detail, as you can see from the blurb. I had to make a choice, put something up, or nothing up. Sometimes less is more. We've been making similar choices for the print edition for years.
It is my hope that the single item you saw on is not the only time the Beacon addresses the issue.
Hope this illuminates some of the sausage making.
Thanks for watch-dogging us.
Always a good thing,

Pho said...

Well crap. I'd a swore I double checked the byline on that. Apologies to Rich.

As for the piece itself, of the three thing I mention, it's the least troubling to me. But when I see a story like it, I think staff reductions. Nonetheless, I wouldn't have gone there without the other two stories.