I would like to commend Scott for his passion for justice. He has done well, some would suppose, to view one-half of the equation and champion a cause based on that half view. However, some would argue, what about the half that he either denies or fails to see?I appreciate the commenter's (perhaps reluctant) homage to the Christmas spirit of forgiveness and understanding. It's certainly true that this blog focuses almost exclusively on problems and their solutions within the criminal justice system. I admittedly don't spend much time lauding the good job being done day to day by police, courts, attorneys, judges, prison staff, probation and parole officers - the "half of the equation" to which my generous reader clearly refers. Let me be clear why that is.
Could I say he is right? He is half-right, but is one so ardent in his half perception really all that right? I guess it's something to contemplate as we enter a new year.
There are already a large number of public relations staff employed full-time in Texas who do nothing but promote those positive, system-is-working, move-along-nothing-to-see-here messages. TDCJ and DPS each have multiple public relations staff, and every large police and sheriff's department has full-time media professionals, often former reporters, who do nothing but promote positive stories about their agencies. Police and deputies unions are locally powerful, as are District Attorneys, and their views are respectfully and regularly represented in the MSM. So that's perhaps several dozen full and part-time media folks around the state working for various state and local agencies and special interests promoting the half of the story I'm supposedly missing. Is it really so bad that one person, in his spare time, blogs about the half of the issue that official sources tend to ignore? "Half" is a lot of territory to cover!
As Reason magazine's Radley Balko is fond of pointing out, the MSM doesn't "suffer from liberal bias; they suffer from statism"; they're not pro-liberal, but pro-government (which can sometimes be mistaken, understandably, for Big Government Liberalism). The reason, though, isn't this or that reporter or publisher's personal politics or bias, it's the structure of how professional journalism is taught and practiced, as well as the context in which it is performed. Not all, but a majority of workaday news stories on most subjects arise from the following formula: Government or other official source does something or says something; reporter gets quotes from them (sometimes canned in public statements or press releases) then quickly finds someone to quote for "the other side" by deadline who a) is usually given less space and b) is commenting on a story whose focus has already been fundamentally defined by officialdom.
This formula's limitations are strongly on display with crime coverage, which often has only two possible sources - the government and the defense. Save for exceptional circumstances, the defense will avoid speaking to the media, while the DAs and police are set up to churn out press releases whenever the need arises. Coverage of criminal justice at the legislature adds additional institutional players - state agency PR staff, police chiefs and sheriffs associations, unions, single-issue groups like MADD, the occasional vendor - who mostly share an interest in the status quo. Since few besides paid lobbyists for these institutional, pro-law enforcement interests attend legislative hearings, that's who tends get quoted in the resulting news stories.
This blog was created expressly as an antidote to one-sidedness I perceived in MSM coverage on criminal justice. My view is I don't need to tell "the other side"; a small army of paid media flacks and MSM reporters already do that and I routinely link to their work. That's why many blog posts on Grits are structured by quoting an MSM story then providing additional information or a takeaway, summary sentiment: My goal isn't simply to point readers to others' reporting so much as so supplement their reporting with the part of the story that routinely, for structural reasons, gets diminished or left out.
As this blog moves into its seventh year of commentary, and as we prepare ourselves for what promises to be a rough-and-tumble legislative session, I thank Grits readers for seeking out and hopefully putting to good use the information and perspectives you find here. Unlike most TV news viewers or newspaper readers, you are not passive. Instead, you are people from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives with more than a passing interest in criminal justice who are looking for more information and/or analysis than the MSM is giving you - as Paul Harvey used to say, "the rest of the story." I hope you continue to find it on Grits for Breakfast, and continue to tell me when you don't. Until then, here's wishing everyone a happy Xmas, and hoping in the holiday spirit that we all find wisdom and grace headed into the new year.