HOWLS! Deaths, babies and bad cops

dn_drug• Boy dies at hand of mom’s boyfriend.

• Get over Octomom, Fox!

• Officer misconduct not covered well by DN.

After this beating, Camden boy dies

This article from the Daily News, by Jason Nark, covers the story of how Jamar Cruz was beaten to death in Camden by his mother’s boyfriend this week. The article says the boyfriend, Vincent Williams, pleaded guilty to beating Jamar last year and for this Williams received probation, a $200 fine and he was ordered to take anger-management classes.

On Monday, officials say that Williams repeatedly kicked and punched the same child in Camden’s Ablett Village Apartments. Jamar was rushed to the Cooper University Hospital, where he died at about 7 a.m.; the beating had occurred 24 hours before. Before the ambulance arrived, neighbors reported seeing Williams rush out to his car. They also claim that Williams physically abused Jamar’s mother, Omayra Cruz, and that he was often seen sitting outside the house in his car.

Nark did a good job to provide context for this story. The information regarding Williams’ previous abuse of the child was extremely significant. While this was significant, there was no comment or information from the child’s mother, Omayra Cruz, or someone representing the family. Because this situation involved repeated violence over time, it would have been helpful to know why this woman continued to allow this man to be around her child. While the comments from the neighbors provide more context about what only people close to the family could have observed, it does not provide enough information about what really happened. Only the mother or someone intimately connected to the family would have been able to provide this information.

-Rachel Ross

Fox29 loves Octomom

I’ve been holding on to this one for a while now, but just couldn’t stand by any longer.

This week’s howl requires little explanation, but I will offer some advice to the friendly people at Fox29 (and as one of their interns, I mean this sincerely and most respectfully)…

Please, for the love of God, stop running stories about the f—ing “Octomom.” Unless the woman shows up pregnant with … say, minimum twins … it’s not newsworthy anymore.

Leave it to TMZ!! Surely you can find something local (and more important) to slide into that enormous 20-second portion of the newscast.

-Brian Donathan

Daily News Drops the Ball in Officer Misconduct Stories
Daily News Story #1
Daily News Story #2

Any journalist will tell you that dirty cops make for great news stories. Since one of the fundamental obligations of the press is to seek out official misconduct on the public’s behalf, thoroughly vetted and thoughtful stories about police abuse of power should be a win-win situation for both the public and the media.

This simple formula, however, is tainted when the press fails to ask relevant questions and is content to skim the outermost surface of the police corruption issue.

Two articles this week from the Daily News, also posted on, reveal a shocking failure of local journalists to pursue the obvious angles related to two separate police misconduct allegations.

The first article involves a lawsuit against the department stemming from a 2007 narcotics raid on a bodega on West Oak Lane. The bodega’s owner, Jose Duran, alleges that police destroyed his $15,000 surveillance system during the raid and helped themselves to various snacks and $10,000 cash, while they only reported the confiscation of $785. Duran has video footage of the initial minutes of the raid showing the officers disabling the security cameras.

While these are very serious allegations and the meat of the story seemed balanced and accurate, I was troubled by how the reporters overlooked a broader issue smoldering between the lines of the lawsuit: Why were the police raiding this business in the first place?

Drum roll, please: The justification for the raid that allegedly resulted in destruction of property and theft was that Mr. Duran’s store was selling drug paraphernalia in the form of tiny baggies with few purposes other than packaging drugs. The story mentions this, but offers no details about this tactic or sources evaluating its effectiveness and the extent of its use.

While small, sealable baggies are convenient for distributing personal amounts of crack, heroin and marijuana, I cannot imagine that drug dealers throw their hands in the air and re-enroll in high school when the bodega shelves are empty of them. I can think of 15 different products in my kitchen alone that could do a serviceable job in narcotics packaging.

Here are some pertinent questions that I would ask as a reporter trying to connect the dots in this story:

* What are some legitimate purposes for these baggies?
* Is this practice common in the Philadelphia Police Department? In other departments nationwide?
* What is the department’s explanation of the need for this tactic?

The tactic described in this story is another footnote in the sad history of America’s misguided “War on Drugs.” This is bigger than Mr. Duran and dirty cops.

This story represents the egregious misuse of public funds in prosecuting an endless war with little purpose beyond locking thousands of human beings in cages for years at a time. It stinks of heavy-handed policies devised by men who are extremely disconnected from the minority communities ravaged by the Drug War. It shows how law-abiding citizens are dragged into the shameful fray on a daily basis.

The Daily News has an obligation to the public to pursue these angles and approach police policy with a certain level of skepticism. Without that self-reflection and questioning of entrenched policies on the local level, Uncle Sam will be destined to dance the drug prohibition tango forever, trampling lives and liberty with every step.

A second story from the Daily News exhibits similar shallowness and uncritical reporting. The article involves a police investigation into overtly racist comments made by a junior officer, William Thrasher, to a Temple student reporter.

Again, the reporter covers the details and chronology of the story fairly well. But the article fails to answer one obvious question: Has this officer ever exhibited, or been accused of, misconduct that mirrors his incendiary comments?

I agree that the use of the code “TNS” and the officer’s blanket generalizations about the predominantly black inhabitants of his district are wholly inappropriate coming from anybody, especially law enforcement personnel. But the unwavering focus on this man’s words alone without any mention of his conduct or performance record is a pathetic excuse for journalism.

Just another example of the Daily News feeding the fires of controversy while ignoring relevant facts that could better explain why the media lit the match in the first place.

-Lance Duroni

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s