Ethics in Media Coverage of Officer Involved Shootings: The Ferguson Effect

The shooting of Ferguson resident Michael Brown, 18, by veteran officer Darren Wilson, 28, was the spark that lit the fire for unprecedented media coverage of officer-involved shootings.

Since that fateful day in August of 2014, the media and public have participated in a never before seen number of public opinion “trials” that are full of speculation, half-truths, Monday morning quarterbacking and a vast number of misconceptions. Even a USA Today timeline of events, published in August 2015, failed to mention important details of Brown’s actions—omitting Brown’s assault on Wilson during their first encounter. It seems that the court of public opinion is not only in session, but show no signs of going to recess anytime soon.

One of the biggest disservices the current 24-hour news cycle has done for consumers is the reporting of “facts” before they are fully vetted. It’s bad enough when the media get names of suspects wrong, or when they misreport on the death of a senator—but convicting a city employee of murdering an “innocent” man without proper investigation of the facts has to be one of the most prominent examples of violating the public’s trust.

In his Washington Post article, Jonathan Capehart admitted, “in those early hours and early days, there was more unknown than known.” Yet, that didn’t stop him from sharing his thoughts with MSNBC’s Michael Skolnik on “the death of another unarmed black man at the hands of a white police officer.”

The media’s insatiable appetite for too quickly reporting misinformation is not only a disservice to the news consumers, but to the people whose lives they ruin in the process.

Capehart now admits that the “’Hands up, don’t shoot’ movement was built on a lie.” The two investigations into Brown’s death, released by the Justice Department “have forced me to deal with two uncomfortable truths: Brown never surrendered with his hands up, and Wilson was justified in shooting Brown,” Capehart wrote.

If hindsight is 20/20, where does that leave us as a nation? If when truths come to light lives are still ruined, communities still destroyed and misconceptions are still perpetuated years later, how can we not question journalistic practices of reporting half-truths in the name of breaking news?

[As this post is about journalistic integrity and ethical practices, I should note that Capehart also noted that the DOJ report revealed an alarming number of civil rights violations over the years from the Ferguson Police Department, which also needs to be addressed. But, that does not negate the need for media to be more responsible in their reporting. Stories that are as volatile as police shootings of minorities need to be handled with the utmost integrity and deal strictly with facts—not speculation that has the potential to leave another community destroyed in the wake of violent protests that were built on a lie.] 


FullSizeRenderGuest author: Kristi Reed is a freelance writer and photographer living in SE Asia with her family. She is actively engaged in combating global injustice, ending modern-day slavery and documenting current world events. Kristi is currently seeking a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Arizona State University.

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Driving basics: India and the US

It’s Friday morning and you are driving down the city. Traffic is light and you take a left turn into a fairly empty street.  Suddenly everything changes. Your car accelerates from 35 mph to 80 mph in a matter of seconds. You find yourself inside your favorite race car. The streets turn into race tracks.

You race to merge into the right lane. But the other speeding cars won’t let you. With every failed attempt, your urgency increases. You must merge before the road leads you to a different destination. You keep trying and make it just in time as the car ahead of you accelerates. You are still losing time. There are too many cars in this race. You have to get to the finish line without getting disqualified.

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Image credit: Pixabay

You step on the accelerator and inch closer to the car ahead of you. The car behind you changes lanes and tries to overtake you. You let him. You need to follow a different route and stay on track. And whatever happens, don’t get into an accident.

On the right side of the track, you see police cars and ambulances tending to the most recent crash. You shake your head – silly bad drivers, you think. Just then, the car in front of you slams their brakes with no warning. You find yourself dangerously close. Oh no! You frantically slam the brakes. You feel your heart skip a beat. You hear tires screeching and tense up for a collision. Just then the car ahead of you changes lanes allowing you to speed ahead. Everyone is still alive.

This is how I feel when we drive down US highways. It’s terrifying and the adrenaline rush is hard to ignore.

Driving in India is an entirely different game. Indian roads are considered to be so busy and chaotic that people say if you can drive in India, you can drive anywhere in the world. I kinda disagree. It definitely teaches you amazing tricks like honking your way forward, being fearless when there are no signs, parking in tiny spaces, driving through flooded streets – but it doesn’t prepare you for speeding cars following lanes.

When I started driving in the US, my biggest challenge was staying within lanes. Maybe it’s just me but lanes seemed more restrictive and narrower the faster I drove. I had a hard time avoiding curbs that, in my opinion, don’t need to jut into streets that much anyway. I was more stressed during those first few weeks of driving than I have been in my entire life. The effort that went into driving the vehicle seemed so pointless that I decided not to drive in the US at all. After about a year of struggles, I think driving in the US is actually quite easy and painless. As long as I stay clear of highways.

When I lived in Kolkata, as part of my job, I had the privilege of hosting visitors from different parts of the world. Whenever we would drive around the city, most visitors would pause all conversation, grab onto their seats and turn pale. After most car rides, the remarks would be the same – I was sure we were going to die or how is it possible to drive through those narrow lanes or I don’t have the courage to drive anything here. I wish I could tell them how I understand what they felt. No one really warns you about the terrors of driving when you move overseas. You learn to deal with it as time goes by. You learn to drive on the other side of the road.

Driving in the Atlanta (and a few other US cities) Driving in Kolkata (and a few other Indian cities)
You learn to read all the road signs without bumping into the car ahead of you or going off the road. You learn to drive intuitively without most road signs.
You learn to stop honking and get used to quiet speeding traffic. You learn to honk – to get your way, to vent frustration on that slow moving vehicle, to warn oncoming vehicles and people at minor intersections.
You learn to drive within restrictive lanes. You learn to squeeze in between cars without scratching your car.
You learn to appreciate and follow the big red STOP sign. You learn to drive alert and prepare for surprises.
You learn to appreciate parking spaces. You learn to park in tiny spaces.
You learn to drive within speed limits. Speed limits are higher than you can ever achieve. You learn to expect speed bumps and competing for space with 1000 other vehicles. 
You (hopefully never have to get into an accident and) learn how to deal with insurance. You learn to ignore accidents as long as the damage is within acceptable limits and no one is hurt. Insurance is not disturbed unless the local mechanic advises you to contact an authorized service center.
You learn to drive on the right side of the road with all the controls on the left side. You learn to drive on the left side of the road with all the controls on the right side.
You wait for pedestrians to cross the road safely, even when they are ridiculously slow. You learn to maneuver around pedestrians in situations similar to obstacle races.
You hate rush hour traffic! You hate rush hour traffic!

Drive safe today! And be extra alert on that highway!


Share your overseas driving experiences by writing to editor@theoverseasmagazine.com

 

Ordering food in the US and how it’s done in India

A question that foreigners get asked everywhere is: what are some things that are different here? As an Indian living in the US, I have answered this question quite a few times. It is not an easy question to answer because really the differences are many but several of those are simply based on our personal perceptions. So let’s start with a simple difference.

Restaurant mannerisms between the two countries are quite different. Firstly, it is more common to find waitresses in the US and waiters in India. I’m not sure why that is but waitresses are rare in India, at least at the restaurants that I have been to.

Ordering food is remarkably different in these two countries too. Generally customers need to answer several more questions in the US than they need to in India. In fact sometimes you would wish they’d asked a few questions in India about some dishes. But most of the time the fewer the questions, the better it is.

Here’s an example:

Scenario: You want to order a bowl of soup but you have a few questions about it.

In India:

What kind of soup is this?

It’s soup with a creamy base with freshly cut vegetables.

Is it good? (Silly question but customers ask this frequently as though the answer will ever be in the negative)

Absolutely! 

In the US:

It’s soup with a creamy base, or you could order it with less cream or with milk, and it takes about a 30 minutes or so to prepare but it comes with a choice of fresh vegetables and meat if you would prefer. The chef told us this morning that a rare kind of potato was available in the market this morning, which is so exciting, so you’ll might get that in your soup. So would how creamy would you like it? 

Thick sounds great.

Okay. Which vegetables would you prefer – blah blah blah or blah (names some vegetables)? Would you like it spicy hot or spicy medium?  Would you like to add any meat to it? We have …(names five different options)! 

And if it’s the South, you will be called “honey” for the duration of your meal – no, not by your companions but by the restaurant staff.

Ordering food comes with a complimentary decision-making session in the US. Ordering food in India comes with a complimentary trust-the-chef session.

The other big difference is the joy of free drink refills in the US, which is not a concept in India yet. Also, below are glass sizes in India compared to sizes in the US.

Glass sizes

 

When two or more people go out to eat in India, it’s not unusual for them to order family style. That way you get to enjoy more variety of food as if it was your own. In the US, we order individual plates even though the quantity of food is more than enough for people to share. Again this might just be true for the circles and restaurants I’ve been to.

Tips to waiters in India usually depends on the generosity of the customer instead of the length of the conversation with the customer. In fact, a waiter would get a higher tip for the amount of complimentary food served and the lesser amount of ‘interruptions’ caused during the meal. Whereas in the US, the ‘interruptions’ could potentially lead to more tips.

It is common belief that people in the US prefer privacy and value their personal space while people in India (and the East in general) thrive on community and are ridiculed for their lack of any sense of personal space. I wonder what causes this switch in behavior at restaurants.

The first time I ordered a burrito in the US, I was bombarded with fifteen questions much to my dislike. I was not ready for that decision-making lesson and for some reason even though it was simply food, the choices seemed overwhelming. Funny, right? On the other hand, a friend of mine from the US was visiting India for the first time and was frustrated at a coffee shop in India because she received a default drink listed on the menu without having any opportunity to choose the flavors, size and strength of her coffee.

Different perceptions are based on where we live. ‘Normal’ differs everywhere and that’s the beauty of diversity.

Dedicated to our favorite US veteran!

Reflections on US Veterans Day: This beautiful reflection was originally a Facebook post by the author and I am so thrilled to feature it on this blog. The author is awesome and she has an awesome family!

 

I don’t really remember the day he left. But I remember the day he came back. I remember standing around, holding that poster, my sweaty hands getting the edges a bit damp. I don’t remember if there were a lot of people there. But I remember being told to not move around so much as we waited. I thought we’d already been waiting forever. It’d been so long…
 
Finally, after what I thought had been hours and hours, people started appearing. Strangers, whose faces I can’t remember. Then, suddenly, the tops of those brown boots came into view. I couldn’t see more than the tops of his shoes, but I knew it was him. I was off and running. I practically flew up those stairs and into the arms of the only father I’ve ever known: Tim French. He was finally home.

My family has some military history. We have ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War, some in the Civil War, my grandpa and his brother were active during World War II. I even have a great uncle who won the Medal of Honor for outstanding service during World War II. And while all of that is great and wonderful, none of that necessarily impacted me. I wasn’t there waiting for them to come home. By the time I came around, all those wars were over. The medals and flags had been boxed up, and people were talking about the Middle East.
 
Then, one day, Dad left.
 
But I remember he called me on my birthday. For my 7th birthday, I wanted to go to a tea room (classy, I know), and I remember my mom interrupting me pouring myself hot chocolate with this excited look on her face and handing me her cell phone. It was my dad. The next day I got flowers in the mail with a teddy bear. I remember Mom reading his e-mails to us kids from that now ancient laptop.
 
Those were the times that impacted me, because it was real then. War was suddenly so much more real. Even though Dad wasn’t technically in combat, any American soldier in the Middle East was in constant danger and threat of harm. But he did it, to serve God, country, and family.
 
And where would our country be without those who served?
 
Thank you, Dad, for everything. You’re the greatest hero I know.

 
Guest author: Leanna French

Cops & Community

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools” –  Martin Luther King Jr.

It is interesting how in the story of the Good Samaritan, the victim rescued and treated by the Samaritan is a crime victim. The underlying message cautions us against forming stereotypes about good people and bad people. It’s a powerful reminder of the transforming power of compassion.

Atlanta hosted an innovative approach to address the growing hostility between some citizens and Police Officers in the United States. The dialog was an endeavor to encourage mutual commitment to fostering positive relationships between Law Enforcement Officers and citizens.

This meeting and Solidarity March was sponsored by several leaders including Rev. Markel Hutchins, The IBPO, FOP, AFSCME, GA Association of Police Chief, NOBLE, NAACP, Power of Peace Project, Radio One of Atlanta, GA Sheriff’s Association and LULAC.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that..”

Several people attended the event, including those who had shown up to use this platform to advertise their personal agendas and create chaos. They were protesting about injustice but it was hard to hear them over all their shouting. It seemed that their only purpose to attend was to interrupt any effort attempted at an open dialog. As expected, the group created a lot of noise, very little impact with their protests and left when they were tired.

The path to progress is conciliatory – not shouting and protests. Consider how situations can be positively changed. Don’t get caught in illusions. You get further with firm positive appeals than with meaningless fights.  

The panelists consisted of leaders from Law Enforcement and people striving to bring about social change. Several critical topics were addressed and it brought a lot of truth to the surface.

An officer shared about a time he had to pull the trigger to protect a victim and stop a young man from stabbing her. He found out later that the victim was a mother and it was her son who was trying to kill her. The son was arrested and and the mother thanked the officer on the day of sentencing.

It takes a lot of courage to pull the trigger on a person. Officers have the huge responsibility to respond to critical situations which demand lethal decisions. There have been instances when an officer could have handled a situation differently but believe this – no officer wants to jump out of his car and shoot someone randomly. Just like other citizens don’t want to be judged because of someone else’s crime history, officers ask that they are not judged and shot for another officer’s act. We have let stereotypes cloud our judgement. All lives matter!

In addition to the panelists, select families of fallen officers and citizens were featured.

A grandmother shared about the day she lost her grandson who was at the wrong place at the wrong time. He was a good boy and the day he was shot, he had gone out to meet his friends. He was shot by an officer at a crime scene. Her appeal to officers was simply to ask questions before pulling the trigger, to look at people as people instead of at their color.

She thanked people from all communities who had stood by her during that hard time. It was a struggle to forgive and it took more courage than she thought she had to make it to the stage to share her story. But she forgave the officer who had shot her grandson. She encouraged the audience to pray for Police Officers so that they can carry out their responsibilities well.

A father shared the story of his son who was a young Police Officer and was shot and killed by a young man. This young man had been first arrested when he was 13 years old. He was 19 when he shot the officer fatally. Later the young man confessed that he was determined not to go back to prison and had purposed to kill any officer who approached his car that day.

Lives matter. Not just when police kill someone but also the other way around. Officers have lives and families who love them just as deeply as other citizens love theirs.

This father shared about the night their son died – the terrible pain and struggle. But he and wife prayed that they would forgive the young man who had killed their son. They did and they experienced the transforming power of forgiveness.

It’s natural to be angry and raise one’s voice but don’t let it hinder you from experiencing the healing that forgiveness brings. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Only time will reveal the outcome of this Dialog and Solidarity March. But may we take time to pray for Police Officers and be thankful for their service. Build a better community through cohesive relationships and teach others to live in community. It will take all of us to bring about understanding and reconciliation.

Eat: Atlanta

We tried these five restaurants in the last few weeks and recommend them! If you haven’t already,  consider making a reservation in one of these restaurants in Atlanta, GA this weekend:

  • Zyka: If you are looking to try one of the most authentic North Indian restaurants in Georgia, Zyka is the place to be! They offer lunch and dinner menus. Our favourite items on their menu are their spicy Biryani, Naan and mango lassi! Their pleasant staff could suggest additional ideas if you want to try something else. Prices are affordable and you can ask them to adjust the spice depending on your taste buds.  (More information: www.zyka.com)
  • Hankook Taqueria: Delicious Korean food served the American way. You can expect quick service and great options for street snacks, tacos and burritos. This small place has a fun decor and interesting flavors! (More information: hankooktaqueria.com)
  • Flying Biscuit: Amazing place for delicious all day breakfast and other meals. There are several of them around Atlanta and if you choose the time and location smartly, you might not end up waiting for an hour before you get a table. The amount and delicacy of the platter will make up for the cost. (More information: www.flyingbiscuit.com)
  • Smoke Ring: If you are looking for a place serving amazing barbecue, get a table at Smoke Ring. The decor and service add to the charm of the place. If you are not extremely hungry, you can have leftovers for your next meal. (More information: www.smokeringatlanta.com)
  • Aamar Indian Cuisine: Another Indian place you should try if you’re Downtown, is Aamar Indian Cuisine. They have a variety of great Indian meals and offer free delivery up to three miles. The chai served with samosas here can transport you to India. (More Information: aamarindian.com)

Have you tried a new restaurant recently somewhere in the world and loved it? You can use the comments section below to share your recommendation or consider writing a post and send it to theleadjournal@gmail.com.