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Friday, October 2, 2009

Are You Sure You're a Reporter?

Despite what people say, print journalism isn't dead. Sometimes, though, I think maybe it should be, and then have its corpse violated.

Take, for instance, this "article" that appeared today in "The Philadelphia Inquirer," which is, supposedly, our fair city's high-brow newspaper. I've taken pains to bold the "appetizing" portions of the article:

Pizza-eating police nab three suspected thieves
By Kathleen Brady Shea
Inquirer Staff Writer

Hungry thieves in West Whiteland Township were no match for detectives with an appetite for crime prevention, police said yesterday.

Three township detectives were having lunch in the Peace-a-Pizza shop in the Main Street shopping center about 12:10 p.m. Tuesday when they noticed a woman peering into customers' purses, Sgt. Martin Malloy said.

Fearing that she might be seeking a different type of dough, the detectives - Sandy Smith, Kristin Lund, and Scott Pezick - followed her as she met up with two other women and drove to the other side of the shopping center, Malloy said.

Two of the women left the car and went into the Babies R Us store, while the third stayed in the car. The detectives split up and continued their surveillance, Malloy said.

Eventually, the women were questioned, and police said they learned the three were concealing $180 worth of merchandise with no receipts. Lakisha Mitchell, 22, of Newark, Del., and Violet Washington, 18, and Deneisha Wright, 20, both of Wilmington, were arrested for theft, receiving stolen property, and criminal conspiracy, Malloy said.

They are not the first alleged victims of the dining detectives, Malloy said.

In May 2007, Lund and Pezick were seated at the Cosi restaurant in the same shopping center when they noticed a woman using fancy footwork to move a nearby diner's purse that had been placed on the floor. They watched as the woman removed credit cards and cash before returning the handbag to its original location.

Her subsequent arrest might have given the detectives an insatiable craving for culinary crime-solving.


I mean-- wow.

Now, let's be up front with each other here: I'm no journalist. I admit that. But, after reading this, I think you will agree that neither is Kathleen Brady Shea. I did take a journalism course in college, and the first thing we were taught by our instructor is,

"Always be asking yourself, 'is this news?'"

I think Kathleen Brady Shea might have forgotten to ask herself that question before she wrote this "tasty little piece."

If she did, in fact, ask herself that question and the answer she came up with was, "Yes, this is news," then this is how the story should have read:

"Three West Whiteland Township detectives arrested three Delware women on suspicion of theft, receiving stolen property, and criminal conspiracy."

That's a piece of news. The article that preceeded this was a piece of shit.

We in America have a long, deeply-entrenched tradition of thinking of cops as sitting on their fat asses eating. Think Norman Rockwell's "The Runaway." The hulking mass of cop in that picture looks like he's about to chow down on the boy's piece of pie. Thanks for the stereotype, Norm.

We get our bullshit ideas about the world from pop-culture-- depictions in TV and film, we're not supposed to get them from the newsmedia. It is the responsibility of journalists to present fact-based accounts of the news. Newsprint is not a medium for making fun or making light, or for presenting stories in a cutsey, tongue-in-cheek way littered with vomitrocious aphorisms. The thing is, we have three detectives who made a triple arrest, and they're being treated in a condescending, patronizing manner, calling them "Pizza-eating police" and "dining detectives," bringing to mind a 300 lb cop with melted mozzerella hanging out of his mouth.

Maybe Ms. Shea thinks she's still writing for her high school paper.

By the way, if anybody sits around on their asses eating all day, it's more likely to be writers, not cops.

Incidentally, Ms. Shea put her email address at the close of her little journalistic offering in case anybody has any comment they'd like to make about it or her writing.


Why not drop her a line and let her know what you think?

I'm going to!


  1. Wow.

    It's a little overly cute, but…
    As the full-time Devil's Advocate of the Internet, at least she looked for a way to pull readers through yet another story about crime.
    Even if it's just petty pizza-pie crime.

  2. I'm definitely going to say something to her. As a person who makes her living as a writer, I'm appalled at what passes for seemingly "intelligent" print pieces. Not only did she waste our time and belittle those men in blue who made an excellent arrest, but she succeeded in appealing to the lowest common denominator. (Harry Potter, anyone?)

    Writing is an art, just like drawing or painting or creating music. So why is it that every yahoo thinks that they can write well?

    And to think that this woman probably makes twice as much as I do....

  3. I think that's what they call a 'slow news week', or 'human interest story'...


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