Thursday, May 21, 2015

"Perp" Walk

I watched one of my local television channels and their newscast last night. A reporter was doing a live shot outside a police precinct reporting a story about and waiting for a “perp walk” of a known mentally challenged woman who tried to abduct a child at a Central Park playground.

The initial story told the facts, as known, and was fine. Then when the police and the woman appeared during the live report walking to a vehicle, the reporter shouted questions to the accused. “Why did you do this?” “Did you know the child?”

I believe this was wrong and an attempt by the reporter to sensationalize the story. The reporter had already established that the accused woman had known mental issues. Once that is acknowledged you leave it alone. Shouted questions are always accusatory in nature with no way for a legal response of presumed innocence.

I keep hoping that my former profession will get back to the basics of journalism. Who, What, Where, When and, if known, Why. A “perp walk” with shouted questions will never reveal the answers to these questions and I think degrades the news organization and its ethics.

A “perp” walk is an accommodation police departments do for the media in order to get a picture of the accused. I think that’s wrong too.

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