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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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