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Salem-News.com Exec. News Editor’s Bait and Switch Story

Recently the Salem, Oregon Salem-News.com published a political perspective by the paper’s Executive News Editor, Tim King. The story was titled, “Are Drugs Dogs and Increasing Police Scrutiny the Answer for Oregonians?” It’s dek read: “A special traffic operation on an Oregon Highway raises many questions about Civil Rights.” Like many of his contemporaries, King, a twelve-year veteran TV news producer, photojournalist, war correspondent, reporter, assignment editor, and current Executive News Editor for Salem-News.com, seems both unable to stay on a single point for a measly 900 words nor able to report on events.

Mr. King’s story begins with a distressing introduction to possible civil rights violations by Oregon State Police. That’s the end of that story however; the introduction has nothing to do with the point of the story. Instead, the actions of the police are used a hook in a bait and switch. Just when the reader’s interest is piqued and his outrage begins to build, King switches to the unrelated point he really wanted to make: his displeasure with the fact that marijuana is illegal.

I attempted to comment on the article, but the site no longer seems to be accepting comments on the article. Thus I offer my editorial response here.

Dear Mr. King:

You had there the beginning of a compelling story about police abuse of civil liberties. Regrettably you abandoned the original point of the story and switched in mid-stream to a completely different piece–an op-ed expressing your dissatisfaction with the illegality of marijuana.

Did you interview the police officers performing the questionable roadside stops? Did you contact the OR State Police for comment? When and where was the hearing in which the Hispanic man’s case was heard and subsequently dismissed? What was his name? Who was the Judge? After twelve years in the business, you are familiar with the fundamental questions a reporter might ask, aren’t you?

Next time you begin a story, finish it. Your headline and dek caught attention, but you used them as a bait and switch to jump on a soapbox about the legalization of marijuana. I don’t disagree with your position on that topic, but I also don’t appreciate being suckered into reading your stale regurgitation of an opinion expressed identically by countless others before you.

Unfortunately your low-on-facts, slanted, and shoddy article is not atypical of print and online reporting by mainstream media outlets these days. While mainstream media whines that they’re losing readers and viewers to the Internet, they fail to recognize that they are themselves the cause. After all, a complete news story or persuasive editorial can more easily and consistently be found amidst blogs and tweets than in the average mainstream news paper, broadcast, or site.

In short, Tim: Hide your stash better, stop whining, and learn how to be a news man.

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