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Thursday, June 9, 2011


If I hear one more thing about the bias of the media, I think I'm going to eat a container of sour cream with a whole bunch of overripe bananas mixed in there and then throw up on some old lady at a bus stop.

Don't judge me-- it's how I feel, so I can't be wrong.

NPR is liberal. Fox News is conservative. Mainstream media-- like "The Today Show" and "ABC World News Tonight" and all those annoying shows with John Stossel have routinely been accused of having a "liberal bias". That Andrew Breitbart (who, you know, has a few more followers than me, but whatever) went on "The Today Show" on Tuesday and repeated the oft-repeated line about the mainstream media's liberal bias when discussing his role in bringing down Weinermobile. Really, I think we talk so much about bias in the media that, after a while, we don't even know what the fuck we're talking about.

Not that this stops anyone, of course, nor should it. This is America, after all, where the less we know, the more we talk. And God Bless Us, everyone. Except that Tiny Tim, who hardly ever says shit, so fuck him.

If you've taken any 100-level journalism course, you of course know that journalism is supposed to be objective. What does that really mean, though? You're supposed to report a story, give both sides, let the reader make up his or her mind. Ja, Mein Fuhrer? Sounds simple, no? Well, it's not. If you ever listen to news on the radio, you can tell by an announcer's inflection what he or she thinks of the story, or what the news organization's parent organization would like the announcer to reflect in his/her recitation of the news item. Oh, Knight Ridder: stop telling David Hasselhoff how to drive.

I don't think it's anything revolutionary or anything that will have Dianne Sawyer taking off her top to say that there is no such thing as true journalistic objectivity. "The News" is always trying to get us to think a certain thing. For example, "The News" wants us to sympathize with people who "Overcome Adversity." Remember the homeless guy with the golden voice that every asshole from here to Omaha was Tweeting out their tuchuses about? Oh, yeah, remember when "The News" lionized him until he was given a job or two and some respectability?

Oh, yeah-- remember when he relapsed because he was given money but no counseling, support, or life skills to assist him with his new, improbable circumstances?


Which was more reported? The YouTube sensation of finding him panhandling, or his (most recent) fall from grace?


The unfortunate latest turn of events in this story created what is known as cognitive dissonance, that is to say, it didn't fit with the "packaged" news item that "The News" wanted to feed you. It was like finding a sprig of cilantro in your chocolate mousse. And nobody wants that. Except food pervs.

I was thinking about this tonight because I just happened to spy a story that piqued my interest on Yahoo! News. (Can you really trust any "news" source that ends in an Exclamation Mark?[!])

"Cop Fired After Helping Fellow Officers in Distress"

From the opening sentence that follows this clever hook of a headline (hey, got me[!]), it is abundantly clear what this 'news' organization wants you to feel: that this officer was fired unjustly.

"It was a Saturday on campus when David Sedmak, a Rice University police officer, heard "Officer down, officer down!" on his scanner: Two members of the Houston Police Department had been shot downtown. Sedmak rushed to the scene to help his fellow officers."

"Wow! That guy's a hero!" Yahoo! News wants you to say, either out loud or in your head. The article picks up right where this statement you just made ends with:

"But Rice [University!] didn't see Sedmak as a hero. Instead, the university fired him, citing "dereliction of duty."

*GASP!* They "didn't!" you're supposed to say.

Oh, but they did. And, call me a contrarian, but I think they were right to do so.

See, the only reason Officer Sedmak heard that two Houston Police Officers were shot was because he had a scanner in his car. Had he just had his Rice University Police Department issued radio on him, he would not have known, because this Officer Down call would not have been broadcast over that frequency. Sedmak's response was unnecessary, seeing as half the Houston Police Department was flying to the scene of this double shooting (both wounded officers survived, by the way).

So, Sedmak responded to a call for help from another department, which might have been okay had he radioed his dispatcher to tell him/her that he was doing so. But Sedmak didn't make radio contact with his dispatcher, or his supervisor. He just sped off into the night to assist the officers. Which is an unfortunate error, because Rice University dispatch had no idea where Officer Sedmak was for around an hour, during which time they probably thought he was lying dead somewhere, and who knows what frantic efforts went on to raise him and/or search for him. When a police officer doesn't respond to dispatch over the radio for an hour, that's a crisis, because he's usually either incapacitated or dead.

Sedmak's heart was in the right place, but his body wasn't. As a law enforcement officer for nearly 17 years, that man should have known enough to contact dispatch and request permission to proceed to the scene of the shooting. But he didn't. And, in a job where following protocol is paramount as a safety issue, there needs to be accountability and consequences. Should he have been fired? I don't know. Maybe he should have received a reprimand. A suspension. Re-education. Or, maybe he should have been fired. Maybe there's other shit in his personnel file that we don't know about, and this was the straw that broke the sergeant's back.

The thing of it is: the Yahoo! News article, and its author, Zachary Roth, is guilty, through tone and text, of telling us what we ought to think and feel. And I don't need them telling me what to think and feel, just like I don't need Tiny Tim blessing me when I don't want to be blessed.

Thanks anyway, though.


  1. and i just sat up in bed and cheered.

    I mean, good entry.

  2. But noone buys a newspaper with the headline "Officer fired for being a Dumbass and not Following Protocol". True, no one buys Yahoo! News anyway...hell, I didn't even know anyone read Yahoo! news, but provoking outrage is just good business for media.


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