Thursday, November 7, 2013

Media drops the ball on Flint City Council race

Let's expand a little on the previous post that talks about a convicted murderer getting elected to City Council in Flint. I went back to see what kind of coverage the Flint Journal did on the run up to the election on the candidates. A name search of Wantwaz Davis, the convicted murderer who was elected shows several previous stories. Here was a story on his second place finish in the primary, which includes no mention of his criminal background.

Here's the story done in the run up to the election that appears to be a Q & A that was likely filled out by the candidate and submitted. In the past a reporter would have been at least required to do a background check of the Journal files and perhaps a Nexus check of a person just to see if there was something to flag in their background. It also appears there was little or no editing of the comments provided by the candidates. Flint is in lower case and the sentences are not well crafted. So either they were cut and paste from what the candidate submitted or the editing is worse than I thought at the new

By the way, the story is headlined "Everything you need to know about the Fifth Ward City Council Race."  It appears that everything didn't include the fact that one of the candidates was a convicted murderer. As a voter, I might like to know that. Maybe not, but I think that's key information.

Then the first story after the election (Wouldn't a headline "Flint elects convicted murderer" been a juicy headline) buried in this story is an brief accounting of the Flint Council race.

And there is just so much irony in this  MLive video of Wantwaz Davis talking about people with felony convictions not being able to get jobs. Wouldn't it have been fun to hear the reporter behind the camera ask him about his own felony conviction in this video staged in front of a crime scene?

Certainly you can blame voters, but most voters still count on the media - print and broadcast - to provide them the basic information they need about elections. The failure of media, both locally and nationally is epic, and part of the blame goes directly to the downsizing and "youth movement" in the media. Too few reporters and excessive demands coupled with fast food pay is not a recipe for journalistic success.

It wouldn't have been hard to find out either. A simple Google name search turned up a legal settlement for prisoner Wantwaz Davis from his time in prison.

It's just a matter of hours or days that this will be a national story and a national embarrassment for the local media

When the media allows the people they cover to basically determine what you write about them, this is what you get.



Anonymous said...

It is frightfully easy to badmouth reporters and editors. Were you so perfect? There is only a "youth movement" in the field because pay and benefits have been cut so deeply it's a young persons game. No one ever became a journalist to get rich. Now they're lucky to get a job at all. So kind of you to point these problems out.

Jim of L-Town said...

Definitely not perfect. But I would be horribly sad if I missed a story as great as a convicted murderer running for office. I agree with you about the current poor conditions for journalists. I blame management more than the reporters.

Anonymous said...

Really? These super digital, high-tech reporters with their backpacks and iPhones and traveling computers don't as much as Google a candidate? As for checking the Journal library, it doesn't exist anymore. To Anon 11:25, it's not about badmouthing, everybody makes mistakes. This is basic reporting 101. Know the background of your subject. These days it doesn't take much more than a Google check. I hope Jon Stewart hears about this....

Anonymous said...

I would quit my job if something like this happened on my watch.

What's equally sad is that thousands of people in Flint knew about this, yet apparently The Flint Journal -- or whatever it is now -- has made itself so irrelevant that no one bothered to phone in a tip.

Jim Larkin said...

Only in Flint...
As far as what the frirst "Anonymous" said: Jim may not have been perfect (none of us are) but he was a damn good reporter, and he points these things out because of his love of the craft. Better to try to learn from it, than act like a child who has just been scolded.