Arkansas Democrat-Gazette ‘Police Beat’ column identifies suspects by race

Arkansas Times
Managing editor Frank Fellone says the paper has used race in the column “for years and years,” and that the newsroom standard is “to use all available information provided by the police.” The Democrat-Gazette’s policy is “at odds with the conventions of many other news outlets, which avoid racial or ethnic identifiers unless they’re important or, in some cases, if victims provide detailed descriptions,” writes Lindsey Millar of the Arkansas Times. When asked if he had a sense that his paper’s standard for using racial information in crime reports was unconventional compared to other newsrooms, Fellone told Millar: “I don’t know.”

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  • http://profiles.google.com/rp509855 Rod Paul

    Yeah, my ‘fevered imagination’ actually clicked the link to the Arkansas Times piece.

    You should try it – and work on your reading comprehension as well.

    Try reading this aloud – maybe you’ll get it then:
    “IF you are going to use racial descriptions, however faulty they may be, the only honest thing is to use them consistently, all the time, regardless of race – and carefully note that police reports “described” the perp as X.”Physical characteristics, especially as reported by a traumatized crime victim, are often at odds with someone’s actual racial identity.”

  • Anonymous

    And nowhere have I said a word about only giving race when non-white.  Nor did I see anything about that other than in your fevered imagination.  You are beating a dead horse here.  Check out the rioting at the Wisconsin State Fair or the wilding in Greenwich Village.  At the Wisconsin State Fair the race was mentioned but only because it was the obvious reason for the rioting in the first place.  In the case of the wilding in Greenwich Village race was not mentioned in the majority of the reports so what should people be wary of if they go to the Village for the evening.  I think race should be mentioned in all cases where descriptions of criminals are put out there.  What good is giving height and weight when you have no idea as to what the race of the individual is when you are looking for people to call the cops.  Yet your point appears to be that if all the cases are from blacks and you report that all cases involve blacks then this is by definition bias and race should not be mentioned.  Ludicrous.

  • http://profiles.google.com/rp509855 Rod Paul

    Where have I defended criminals? The point is that including an imperfect description of race ONLY when the alleged criminal is not White is de facto bias – and reinforces the beliefs some have that only “those people” commit crimes.

    All while you continue to ignore the other underlying problem, the victim descriptions of “race” are often less than accurate.

  • http://profiles.google.com/rp509855 Rod Paul

    Where have I defended criminals? The point is that including an imperfect description of race ONLY when the alleged criminal is not White is de facto bias – and reinforces the beliefs some have that only “those people” commit crimes.

    All while you continue to ignore the other underlying problem, the victim descriptions of “race” are often less than accurate.

  • http://profiles.google.com/rp509855 Rod Paul

    Where have I defended criminals? The point is that including an imperfect description of race ONLY when the alleged criminal is not White is de facto bias – and reinforces the beliefs some have that only “those people” commit crimes.

    All while you continue to ignore the other underlying problem, the victim descriptions of “race” are often less than accurate.

  • Anonymous

    And what does that have to do with the crimes committed.  Do your statistics supposedly excuse the criminals?  Not in my book they don’t.  I can learn all about the problems with the criminals but that does not solve the problem of the crimes they commit.  Should I forget the crimes is the people are minorities or have problems?  I don’t think so.  I think you need to analyze a wee bit more and consider that the public is supposed to be protected from criminals, the criminals are not supposed to be protected from the responsibility for their crimes.  The race does not have anything to do with it at all.  If you commit the crime, then you should serve the time.  Very simple, that is.

    Now check this one out from Althouse about the “wilding” at the state fair.  The local papers did not print the race at all.  Drudge did and the television channels showed the pictures which is how the general public found out who was committing the “wilding.”  Do you think that the race of these young hoodlums should remain hidden from the general public?  Judging from what you have been commenting you do.  Tell me how that makes any sense at all.  Let’s assume that you are a white person coming from the fair and a gang of black youths is coming toward you.  Should you be concerned about this.  After all they are just youths.  Now if you did not know that there was a lot of these attacks by black youths on only white people leaving the fair.  Would than change your response to what you see coming toward you?  I submit that the media not reporting the race is totally irresponsible in cases like this just for the protection of the general public.  Should the racism of the public override the safety of the public?  I submit it should not.

  • http://profiles.google.com/rp509855 Rod Paul

    I spent the better part of a decade looking at crime statistics and reporting on an overwhelmingly Black community. Instead of woofing statistics you don’t even bother to attribute, dig a little - compare crime rates to economic status, for example.

    Learn, rather than regurgitate.

  • Anonymous

    Should this not have been reported the way it was – and this was not from Arkansas.

  • Anonymous

    Do you think my statistics are wrong?  They are not.

  • http://profiles.google.com/rp509855 Rod Paul

    Easy to see? Want to guess how many NBA fans think Phil Jackson is Black?

    Read the Ark Times story – it makes clear that White perps are less likely to be ID’d by race.

    But your “number of crimes” comment makes clear your real basis. Don’t bother to look for the actual statistics – or to break down by economic status.

  • Anonymous

    The only one I potentially see being at odds is Latino or Hispanic since they cover all racial spectrums.  Other than that the physical characteristics of race would be easy to see.  I think you are just reaching and trying to imply that the race knowledge is the same as the height or weight knowledge and that would not usually be the case.  And how do you get that the report indicates as  common practice at the Ark D-G the printing of race only for African Americans.  If you are doing it based on number of crimes reported then you also have to consider that the number of crimes by race is far higher for African Americans than for other races, especially in the AA on AA crimes.  That is a statistic you cannot get away from.  At the same time if they truly do only report AA crimes by race, then they need to expand their reporting, not stop it.

  • http://profiles.google.com/rp509855 Rod Paul

    Except, of course, it’s what you did in your own example – and what the report indicates is common practice at the Ark. D-G.

    IF you are going to use racial descriptions, however faulty they may be, the only honest thing is to use them consistently, all the time, regardless of race – and carefully note that police reports “described” the perp as X.

    Physical characteristics, especially as reported by a traumatized crime victim, are often at odds with someone’s actual racial identity.

  • Anonymous

    IF the arkansas paper identified everyone charged with a crime by race — including whites – that would be one thing. but it appears it identifies ONLY african-american’s by race. race, though, IS an identifying characteristic in trying to track down a suspected law breaker, as is how one’s dressed, the color of their hair and eyes etc.

  • Anonymous

    IF the arkansas paper identified everyone charged with a crime by race — including whites – that would be one thing. but it appears it identifies ONLY african-american’s by race. race, though, IS an identifying characteristic in trying to track down a suspected law breaker, as is how one’s dressed, the color of their hair and eyes etc.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Henry-Potter/100002583686759 Henry Potter

    This is an excellent policy, and I hope Fellone persists.  Too many journalists today have made the decision to arbitrarily decide what the public should know, instead of simply providing what the public wants to know.  When I read a crime story in a paper I immediately want to know race.  In a perfect world race wouldn’t be the first thing to pop into my head, but we don’t live in a perfect world and I want to know.  

    Want. To. Know.  

    This is such a simple concept, and yet so many journalists are afraid of giving offense by simply reporting facts, and they decide that the public just does not need to know what the public Wants. To. Know.  

    I suspect this is because nearly all journalists really, deep in their collective hearts, believe in two things.  First, that they can change the world through their journalism, and that if they simply ignore the fact that some ethnic groups are more prone to crime than others that  perhaps that fact will simply fade away.  Secondly, they know deep down that they are far more intelligent than their reader or viewer, and have no trouble believing that their mission is to give the audience just the news that the journalist feels the audience can understand or will accept.

    Journalists at least used to be somewhat subtle about these two issues, but now their disregard for the intelligence of their audience and their contempt for simple fact-based reporting is blatant in the extreme, and is playing a major role in the massive changes sweeping the news industry in this country today.  

  • Anonymous

    I would be very interested in seeing how you reach that conclusion.  Would you prefer that the potential victims of these criminals not be informed of who might be threatening them.  Are you more concerned with the criminals than with the potential victims.  Sure sounds like it.  And nobody  says that these racial profiles should only be printed if the criminal is non-white.  That is strictly in your mind, which is a terrible thing to waste when you could potentially save these victims from even becoming victims by telling them what they need to know.

  • http://profiles.google.com/rp509855 Rod Paul

    Because, as in your own examples, the racial description all too often is used only when the alleged criminal is not White.

  • Anonymous

    I fail to see why this would be controversial at all.  If you have a rapist out there and he is Chinese or Hispanic or African American, then say so.  Otherwise all the women would be scared to talk to anyone at all.  It just seems stupid to say that a man around 6 feet tall and weighing 180 lb raped 5 women in a neighborhood and then not say that he was African American could not be more stupid IMNSHO.  You need to give people the information they need to deal with what is out there on the street.