November 12, 2011
Journalism + Political Correctness = Waste of time
The local fishwrap, i.e., The Ventura County Star, ran a brief story today about a recent crime: Test drive in Ventura turns to kidnapping. It's little more than a rewrite of the press release from the local gendarmes, seeking the public's assistance in catching the crook.
Here's the version from the Ventura Police Department's website:
Kidnapping and Carjacking
Incident: Kidnapping and Carjacking
Contact: Watch Commander, 805-339-4416
Location: Ventura Toyota, 6360 Auto Center Drive
Date/Time Occurred: November 10, 2011, 5:00 p.m.
Officer(s) Involved: VPD Patrol
Victim(s): Alejandro Collazo, 36 yrs, Oxnard Resident
Suspect(s): Hispanic Male, 35-45 yrs., short stocky build
Report #: 11-12495
On the above date and time, the victim, a sales associate at Ventura Toyota, was assisting the suspect who was inquiring about test-driving a vehicle. The victim walked away from the suspect to retrieve keys for the vehicle and when he returned, the suspect took the keys away from him and simulated that he had weapon in his waistband. The suspect then ordered the victim into the car and drove away from the dealership.
The suspect drove to the area of Victoria Ave. and Gonzalez Rd. where he let the victim out of the vehicle. The suspect then left with the vehicle westbound on Gonzalez Road towards Harbor Blvd. The victim was not injured. The stolen vehicle is a Gray 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid with California license plate 6FRH988.
Let's take a look at The Star's version:
What started as a test drive at a Ventura car dealership on Thursday turned into a kidnapping and carjacking, police said.
About 5 p.m., a man told a salesman at Ventura Toyota on Auto Center Drive that he wanted to test drive a Toyota Hybrid Camry, according to Ventura police. When the salesman returned with the keys, the man acted like he had a gun in his pants and told the salesman to get in the car, police said. He drove to the corner of Victoria Boulevard and Gonzalez Road before letting the man out, unharmed.
The 2009 gray Camry, license plate 6FRH988, was last seen headed down Gonzales Road toward Harbor Boulevard. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.
As you may have noticed, the police offered a bit of information that did not appear in the Star's story: Suspect(s): Hispanic Male, 35-45 yrs., short stocky build.
The Star, like many newspapers staffed and operated by politically-correct "journalists," maintains that to provide a description of a suspect that is so general is to encourage and participate in "racial profiling."
Oh, the horror.
Allow me to disagree.
Let's start with the numbers. According to the 2010 Census, Ventura County has 823,318 residents. So we begin with more than 800 thousand potential suspects, assuming for the sake of argument that the crook was a local.
The Star helpfully identified the suspect as a man (which seems too general to be helpful under their own guidelines, but I digress). Men represent 49.7% of the populace, which is 409,189 potential suspects.
So, The Star has narrowed the pool of people we should be casting a suspicious gaze upon to a little more than 400 thousand men.
If we use the information provided by the police, we can drill down a little further: Adding Hispanic to the search, using the Census, gives us approximately 164,903 Hispanic Males, eliminating 658,415 people as "persons of interest."
If we then eliminate people over 65, and younger than 18, we're left with 61,673 -- a number that would be even smaller if I could narrow the search to the 35-45 age description provided by the police. The Census doesn't offer height-related breakdown, but "short and stocky" would also further narrow the field of suspects.
Every additional data point helps tighten our focus, enables us to better assist in apprehending a criminal.
But journalists -- or "journalists" -- refuse to provide us with that additional information, preferring to give us descriptions that are worthless.
To summarize, The Ventura County Star leaves us with more than 400 thousand suspects -- all of them males.
The Ventura Police Department narrows that down by almost 90 percent -- and if we factor in height, weight and narrow the age, I'm guessing we're down to less than 3 percent of the Star's We're-All-Guilty-Of-Something pool of potential criminals.
Back in the days when you didn't need a degree to be a reporter, the essential requirements for the job description were tenacity and the ability to gather the Who-What-Where-When-Why-and-How of a story.
Nowadays, the "Who" appears to be unnecessary, an inconvenient, uncomfortable fact to be hidden under the cushions for ideological reasons.
Posted by Mike Lief at November 12, 2011 08:41 AM
Far be it from me to disagree about the dearth of decent journalism in the newspaper world these days. Though we no doubt disagree on what it is that makes it suck so much, we can at least agree that indeed it sucks. But here, I think you've missed the boat.
I'm pretty sure it's going to be irrelevant whether they've described the perpetrator based on height, weight, ethnicity, race, religion, political party, or anything else. No matter how many demographic details you give, they are all going to pale in comparison to the really critical detail that the DO give...
"The 2009 gray Camry, license plate 6FRH988..."
I have no doubt that no matter what demographic details you provide, there are likely going to be a bunch of that group of people driving around in a Toyota Camry. Figuring out the right one is not really possible for the average person reading the article.
Of course, providing the license plate number narrows it down pretty nicely.
So I guess if I see a person, of any description driving around in a car with license plate 6FRH988, I should call the police.
On the other hand, if I see one of the thousand or so folks that might be included in the group of short, stocky, Latino males driving around the Ventura area in a Toyota Camry, I can well imagine that the Ventura PD will be scrambling the full resources of the entire department to chase down that vehicle in the hopes they've nabbed their man...
Posted by: BullButz at November 14, 2011 03:49 PM
Oh, how wrong you are, my friend.
This newspaper almost NEVER gives any demographic information, for fear of profiling. When they allowed readers to comment on the stories, someone would inevitably link to the police department's site, where a more complete description could be found.
There's no reason to delete any physical descriptors provided by the police -- other than political correctness.
Posted by: Mike Lief at November 14, 2011 06:53 PM
No, no, you miss my point. I wasn't suggesting that you were wrong as to why the paper omitted the details that they did, rather that they did include the only actual detail that would help nab anyone in this particular crime.
Getting the police to roll for a vehicle theft investigation is virtually impossible here in LA and I'm guessing fairly tough even in your little hamlet too. But if you tell them you see the car with the same license plate as the one reported, you might have a shot. On the other hand, tell them that you have someone matching a physical description, no matter how detailed that description is, and I'm guessing they'll tell you that they'll get on it just as soon as they have time...in 2016.
Posted by: BullButz at November 18, 2011 06:03 AM
I didn't know anyone still read the Ventura Star.
Posted by: Billy Bob at November 23, 2011 12:12 PM
Really? Perhaps you and your colleagues should focus on doing your job. Lets see $1.3 million for discrimination, costly failed prosecutions, and now the honey badger contest, to name a few.....Wow, time for new managers in that office. Oh and rumor has it the media is preparing yet another story on trial contests in your office. It should hit the fish wrap some time later this week. Happy holidays, really.
Posted by: Carl at November 23, 2011 03:12 PM
Carl, what does your comment have to do with my post?
Posted by: Mike Lief at November 23, 2011 05:01 PM
I find it in very poor taste to come on a public website and publish "rumor has it..." nonsense. On top of that you take a shot at a public official AND his deputies. You obviously feel like you are in the know so why not identify yourself? Why hide behind a robe of anonymity?
Posted by: Anon at November 23, 2011 07:46 PM