Friday, October 31, 2003

It's been on my mind a lot lately, and being a journalism major as well as living in a country that is totally media saturated, I can't really get around it. Bias. Tom Tomorrow has a letter from a "grunt" that works at Fox news, and it's great. My take on bias isn't quite as cut and dried as my militantly liberal cohorts. It's not as simple as "Fox News = lying right-wing scumbags" or "NY Times = bleeding-heart liberals" or anything like that. Even "the liberal media" doesn't cover it. Because there's a conservative rag for every liberal one, not to mention third party and "wing-nut" publications and productions. Everyone has an agenda, even many who claim not to. If I had a dollar for every publication or zine or blog or what-have-you that boasted the TRUTH but only give you a list of atrocities with commentary, I wouldn't have to take out student loans. This may be getting convoluted, especially for those who know how vehemently liberal I am. To me, good journalism is unbiased. Not unbiased as in "those totalitarians at Fox haven't doctored the story to appeal to the Bushies" or "those liberal rats haven't undermined America with another series of lies." Unbiased as in the Joe Friday doctrine: just the facts. I hope that's a standard I can hold myself to, even if others so rampantly and blatantly decide that the JFD is below them.

I smell ramen.

Headline: Reacting to the riot

Sub-Head: FUR BALL: Teens think police were heavy-handed; officer says they didn't start trouble

Perfect World staff

Run Date: 2/21/03


Edition: Final


Page: E4

Text: Since Saturday night's riot at Egan Center, there has been a lot of talk by Anchorage teens and adults. Accusations are flying over who is or isn't to blame.
The immediate result is a pall of mistrust hanging between the Anchorage Police Department and the community's teenage population.
Stories like Service High junior Eli Menaker's are circulating. Menaker was at the Fur Ball when trouble erupted. He said that after a few fights broke out, word that a gun had been pulled reached the crowds of teens; that word spread pandemonium. Menaker exited the building. He says what he saw next -- officers using pepper spray and billy clubs on rioting teens -- made him think the masses of panicking teens were being "handled poorly." He said he ran from the scene.
"I don't trust the cops after what I've seen," Menaker said.
Were relations between teens and police officers strained to begin with? Capt. Audie Holloway of the Anchorage Police Department said he didn't think relations were any more strained than "what would be considered normal." Holloway said it is in every teen's nature to test boundaries, and police are around to make sure that no one crosses lines that shouldn't be crossed. Above all, Holloway said, police around to help.
"We even help people who do things wrong, things they're not supposed to be doing," Holloway said.
As to the disintegration of trust between teens and police officers, Holloway said that teens often don't have the life experience to understand that the police wish to protect the public from danger. Holloway also points out that many officers on the police force tire of teaching group after group of teens the same lessons about what is right and what is wrong.
Caroline Livett, a senior at Service, was also at the Egan when the riot broke out. Livett felt that the police were as unsure about the situation as the students.
"They were scared, too," she said. "They were kind of irrational. ... The cops weren't trying to calm (the students) down."
Livett said she harbors no ill will toward the police after what she saw, but she acknowledged that there could be disturbances in the future because of anti-police sentiments.
"I don't know how much trust there was to begin with, but (the riot) gives teens less trust in cops," she said.
Holloway said that the police did not expect a riot but that the action taken was appropriate considering the size and potential danger of the crowd. "I don't think we had any choice," he said.
Adrienne Petros, a sophomore at East who also attended the Fur Ball, thought that the police acted rashly in using pepper spray and billy clubs on teens.
"They didn't have the right people all the time," Petros said.
Petros thought that some of the students -- those who were threatening the police -- were not innocent, but many innocent teens were hurt. Menaker also felt that the measures the police took were rash and that some officers wanted to get "in on the action."
Holloway said that efforts on the part of the police required organization that was lacking at times; some officers waded into crowds to break up fights when they ought to have been working jointly with other officers, he said.
"There's no way that 70 officers can overwhelm 1,500 kids," he said.
Holloway firmly denied that officers wanted to involve themselves in fights. "It's no big thing to our egos to fight with a teenager."

Erica Rothman is a senior at West High.

back to my original point of bias, though, did I succeed? Was it fair and balanced?

I, like my Katie compadre on the East Coast, am sick and in a state of monthly misfortune. Wonderful timing. Fan-bloody-tastic. Pun intented. Happy Halloween, and I'm going to take me some vitamin I. Ibuprofen, that is.

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