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The Federalist fact-checks Derecka Purnell's playground "shooting"

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Songbird, Jul 17, 2020.

  1. Songbird

    Songbird Well-Known Member

    Great job, if the fact-check is true.

    * * *

    When social justice activist and lawyer Derecka Purnell was just 12 years old, she and her sister watched a police officer shoot a young boy in a city recreation center because he had ignored the basketball sign-in sheet. This jarring, emotional, and deeply unsettling story was published July 6 at The Atlantic, in the section reserved for ideas, under the bold, attention-grabbing headline, “How I Became a Police Abolitionist.”

    Purnell’s deeply personal story of shattered innocence and shattered bones at the end of a policeman’s gun was shared widely among top journalists and activists. “I started her article thinking abolition was impossible and ending thinking it must happen,” the president of a social justice think tank at Harvard wrote on Twitter, quoting his mother. “This is a beautifully written piece,” the Atlantic’s constitutional law editor agreed. “Derecka is the future,” an activist journalism executive declared.

    There’s a major problem with Purnell’s story, however. Based on a Federalist investigation of newspaper archives and the police department records, and questions to The Atlantic, the police union, and the office of the mayor, it does not appear to have ever happened.

    Read the rest of the story.

    Liut and Patchen like this.
  2. Azrael

    Azrael Well-Known Member

    This seems like a very specific fight to pick. Be interesting to see how it turns out.

    Now, who fact checks The Federalist?
    Liut likes this.
  3. The Big Ragu

    The Big Ragu Moderator Staff Member

    That is kind of a cherry-picked approach, tbh. Let's say it was somewhere in the early 2000s. It's very unlikely that an incident like that would have shown up in the Post Dispatch. Especially given the kind of neighborhood she describes having grown up in, which was largely ignored by newspapers. That isn't proof of anything.

    Then, he did a narrow records search that may or may not have covered where or when it happened, may or may not be in a jurisdiction with good record keeping, and he exchanged some e-mails with people who say they have no memory of it. ... and he used it to conclude, "it does not appear to have ever happened."

    It's now incumbent on the Atlantic and the writer to provide whatever details she can. I can understand the editor of the ideas section not responding to that e-mail from him, especially if he did a google search of him and found some of the organizations he associates himself with and a description of his "Trump-is-a-philosopher" book.

    But none of that proves it didn't happen. It more likely proves that an incident like that from 15, 20, 25 years ago (however long it was) could have happened without it being documented for posterity, except in the minds of a few witnesses who actually saw it happen.
    PaperClip529, sgreenwell and Liut like this.
  4. Liut

    Liut Well-Known Member

    Who fact checks the fact checkers? I'm to the point I don't believe much about anything.
  5. Songbird

    Songbird Well-Known Member

    How dare the Federalist journalistically dissect the Atlantic.
  6. The Big Ragu

    The Big Ragu Moderator Staff Member

    Neither of said anything like that.

    I commented -- in detail -- about how he dissected it, and the conclusion he made about it apparently not having happened.
  7. Azrael

    Azrael Well-Known Member


    Not at all what I said.

    I said it's a very specific fight to pick. Which it is. So I'm interested in why, of all the battles it could choose, The Federalist chose this one.

    And as Ragu points out, it's not quite the slam dunk you seem to think it is.

    And, not knowing anything about The Federalist editorial structure, I'm also very interested in how fact checking works at The Federalist.

    If you want to pick a fight, please do it elsewhere.

  8. Songbird

    Songbird Well-Known Member

    How DARE the Federalist pick apart a WOC at the Atlantic!

    ... is exactly how your responses come across.
  9. Songbird

    Songbird Well-Known Member

    And the Northern Illinois shooter looked at himself in the mirror before leaving the room ...
  10. Azrael

    Azrael Well-Known Member

    Then you're a very poor reader.

    And a terrible allcaps and exclamation points exaggerator.
  11. Songbird

    Songbird Well-Known Member

    Poor Az, one of his favorite glossies got put to the test. Must question their motives!
  12. Azrael

    Azrael Well-Known Member

    I'm still not quite sure why you return to this.

    If you gave me a million guesses, I'd never think "the editor told the writer to fabricate an entire scene."

    You know why?

    Because it's career ending.

    Why would anyone ever agree to it?
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