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Feeling like a dirtbag

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Killick, Dec 23, 2009.

  1. Killick

    Killick Well-Known Member

    Really feeling like a slimeball, dirtbag, sneaky sonuvabitch journalist that people always complain about today. Why? Well...

    Editor for local mag that I freelance for was hot for a story about a family complaining that a cop is harassing them and probably shouldn't be a cop at all. Sounds good, especially since the latter claim may have merit because they say he was fired from another local force a few years ago. So, I look it up. The story back then: He was reprimanded for interfering with an investigation of his brother for tire-slashing his ex's car (cop touched something on the car that may have been blood, and his brother had a cut on his hand). So, afterward, the brother gets stopped by cops, gets in a fight and drags an officer 200 feet. Also, had meth in his car. He gets sentenced to 15 years in the pokey. While in jail, his brother the cop talks to him on the phone and bitches about the arresting officer, says he's heard the cop is crooked. Now, since it's a jail phone call, it's taped and eventually gets back to the cop's boss. An investigation is launched, the charges proven untrue, so they kicked our hero out the door.

    He finds his way to another local force, where in the past four years he's been injured in the line of duty and has been commended at least three times - he saved the life of a female OD, closed a series of arson cases and found a huge child porn stash.

    Meanwhile, redneck family says that he (a married man) tried to date a cousin, and she turned him down. So, they say, he's been on a mission to make their lives hell... especially their 18y son who has been arrested or cited by this cop a number of times. Of course, they completely ignore that the kid's a little asshole with a rap sheet longer than people three times his age. All this culminates in a drug raid earlier this month on the family home and the kid is charged with growing weed, trafficking and selling in a school zone. Family screams that it's just more harassment by this cop, though I find out his only involvement is he signed the search warrant as a senior officer in the department. He's not the investigating officer, was only on the scene as a supervisor and that for only 3-4 minutes at the beginning.

    Anyway, as I said, the ed wants this story. I talk to the family, their lawyer, the cop's chief, his old chief and a few others. But - here's why I feel like a douche - not to him. He's on vacation, has been since Dec. 1 and will be until Jan. 4. No published home phone, and the department won't share it either. I left a few messages before I realized he was out for a month, but still...

    I tell the ed that I'm really not comfortable running this without giving him at least the opportunity to comment. His response: "I kind of share your concerns about [cop's] absence, but since it's Tuesday we're in a bind on this. As there's the quote from the judge and details about 1.) [Cop's] past offenses and 2.) the [Punyville] department's troubles, it makes me more comfortable running it."

    And it's running. God, I hate that.

    I continued arguing that it should be held, to no avail. In the end, I asked that my byline not be used, then. Don't know what else I could have done, short of burning a bridge that's helping me make ends meet these days, but... damn. This sucks.
  2. txsportsscribe

    txsportsscribe Active Member

    there's no way i run this story w/out talking to the cop.
  3. spnited

    spnited Active Member

    You should not have written/submitted the story until you had comment from the cop. Then the editor wouldn't have had anything to run and you wouldn't feel like a dirtbag.

    Our legal department would never let us run this without comment from the cop.
  4. Elliotte Friedman

    Elliotte Friedman Moderator Staff Member

    Is there a legal method of preventing the story from running? Could the writer get a lawyer to halt publication?
  5. Moderator1

    Moderator1 Moderator Staff Member

    I can't believe a professional journalist would be OK with this running.
  6. Baron Scicluna

    Baron Scicluna Well-Known Member

    Running the story without the cop contacted just because space needs to be filled is a load of BS.

    Your editor needs to have a backup plan or he'll be spending a bunch of time talking to lawyers.
  7. Your editor is a moran!
    Is this some sort of alternative magazine you are working for?

    That sucks. I can NOT believe this would even be a story ... nit unless the folsk complaining filed a lawsuit.
    We get this kind of shit all the time - folks coming in wanting a story on who they have been harassed or abused by cops and they are going to sue - our responses is alwasy the same. When you file a lawsuit come see us, then we'll talk.

    The abuse is 99 percent of the time BULLSHIT. And your story sounds similar.

    Sorry about your predicament.
    If you are that uncomfortable, either don't submt it or request your name be taken off the by-line.
  8. Killick

    Killick Well-Known Member

    It is.

    Frankly, when I submitted it and voiced my concerns, I was thinking two things: First, I wanted to show the ed what I had so he didn't think that I didn't do anything with the story and second, honestly, I thought he'd hold it. I've known him for a while, and I really believed there was no way they weren't going to hold it until we got the officer's comment/no comment.

    That he's so hell-bent on running it not only shocks me, it disappoints me.

    I did tell him to pull my name off, which he wasn't thrilled with. Still, I'm going to keep an eye on this and, especially if the outcome is favorable to the cop, I'm going to insist on a follow-up. And I'm going to call the cop when he gets back to see what he has to say, either way.

    This is just not the kind of work I wanted to do when I went into journalism. Probably the most disappointing episode in my whole career. Just crappy, crappy journalism. Hate this.
  9. The Big Ragu

    The Big Ragu Moderator Staff Member

    I can't believe anyone would run that without the cop being able to comment. I was in a similar situation once. Nothing quite like that, but I was not comfortable with the way something I wrote was edited and was about to be run, and I asked them to take my name off of it. They did and ran it anyhow.
  10. jfs1000

    jfs1000 Member

    Bad job. I would ask the story be pulled. Your only choice is to go down to the police station and talk to a friend of his and get some contact info. Do that, or start calling up family members and getting in touch with this guy.

    You have to get the cops comments. Tell a friend, chief etc. at the department the urgency. Ask someone to be a middle man.

    If he doesn't want to comment on vacation, fine, but he has to know this story is running. You owe it to the cop. he's on vacation so there is no comment. That is awful.
  11. Killick

    Killick Well-Known Member

    I didn't physically visit the cop shop, but I did ask the dispatcher and his chief to pass along a message with my phone number since they weren't going to give me his home phone. They both said they'd try since they didn't know if he was in town... and, hell, maybe they did reach him and he chose not to call... but jesus, I just hate this.
  12. crusoes

    crusoes Active Member

    Did you tell them the nature of the story? Or just that you wanted to talk to him? I would think that if they knew what was coming they would be more motivated to call him.
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