Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Five random thoughts and a minor boast

Apropos of nothing, here are five random thoughts and a minor boast.

1. Say what you will about the "defund" message, but there's more activity going on around the state regarding police reform, not to mention more bills filed on the topic at the Texas Legislature, than at any time this century. None of it would be happening if it weren't for the protests this summer. It's easy to forget that this time two years ago, the reform movement was more or less dead in the water.

2. On top of COVID and everything else, 2020 has been a grim year for Texas country music fans: Charley Pride, Billy Joe Shaver, Hal Ketchum, Doug Supernaw, Roy Head, Johnny Bush, Jerry Jeff Walker, Justin Townes Earle (Steve Earle's son) ... the number of Texas musical heroes we've lost this year is rapidly mounting. Tack on John Prine, like Charley Pride, a COVID victim, and these are among the folks who wrote the soundtrack for my entire life. Grits took the news of Shaver and Pride's deaths especially hard. (I knew all the lyrics to "Georgia on a Fast Train" and "Kiss an Angel Good Morning" by age nine or 10.) Each new one feels a bit like a body blow. The one bright spot has been Willie Nelson and Karen O putting out an amazing version of "Under Pressure." I've probably listened to it 50 times.

3. Newspapers and TV outlets should ditch their crime beats as we know them today. Here are two reporters at Nieman Labs making the argument why. Grits in the past has suggested eliminating all pre-adjudication coverage and still think that's worth considering. But even I hadn't made the case quite this strongly. Their column opens:

Let’s be honest: Crime coverage is terrible.

It’s racist, classist, fear-based clickbait masking as journalism. It creates lasting harm for the communities that newsrooms are supposed to serve. And because it so rarely meets the public’s needs, it’s almost never newsworthy, despite what Grizzled Gary in his coffee-stained shirt says from his perch at the copy desk.
4. A few weeks ago, the Houston Chronicle's Eric Dexheimer authored a piece about a District Attorney out of Dalhart who dismissed DWI, marijuana, and other cases in exchange for large donations to area nonprofits as part of an illegal pretrial diversion scheme. The arrangement violates state law but no one in power was willing to expend the political capital to stop him. He lost the GOP primary in March and his opponent has pledged to stop the practice when she takes office next year. Grits had forgotten when that story came out that we saw a similar case in Brown County in 2016, an incident which was ably written up in the Texas Observer by Patrick Michels. In that instance, county commissioners brought in a forensic audit team and the Texas Rangers investigated. I can't find any record online of how that case turned out, but if any readers know, please inform us in the comments.

5. On Twitter, a New York City defense attorney marveled at how many clients he was seeing arrested for carrying swords. Grits replied, "Texas straight up legalized carrying swords. But it hasn't really caught on bc they also legalized carrying AR-15s, so folks just do that."

And finally, a minor boast: The Austin Chronicle recently published a short profile of Grits' better half, giving her credit for her work on local policing issues. Give it a read, I'm super proud of her. 


Gadfly said...

When I hear the phrase "Under Pressure" I think of those OTHER boys from Texas. Let's see Willie cover THIS ... or get up on stage WITH the Top:


Gadfly said...

More seriously, I'd just seen the Nieman piece in my Mediagazer feed.

Example A, IMO, of media deferring to cops, columnist not beat reporter division?

Schutze. Yes, that Schutze. https://socraticgadfly.blogspot.com/2020/07/sayonara-jim-schutze-observer-says-and.html

willjs said...

re: #4 about the Brown County attorney illegal pretrial diversion program, please check here. This man Joe Cooksey who investigates the county government and has this FB page below, went after the county attorney Shane Britton for years.
Somehwere in here should be the details.


Charlie O said...

Agree with the crime reporting thought. I hate local news broadcasts almost primarily due crime reporting and how it's presented. Usually just a regurgitation of the police spokesperson. Look back at the Waco biker debacle. All of the early reporting was just the BS put out by the local cops.