Tuesday, March 06, 2007

More Politically Correct Crime Reporting

The journalism students at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee are on a roll.

First there was the scoop on the issue of an e-mail that went out to all UWM students. A suspect was at large in a robbery, and students needed to be on the lookout.

But the e-mail omitted the race of the robber, while including other much less relevant information.

Now we have a similar case, this time involving political correctness on the part of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
When a crew of armed robbers held up five victims in the UWM area last week, the victims got a pretty good look at them.

The suspects were all black, they told police. And male. In fact, the victims provided a host of details, which police gave to the media.

But the state’s largest newspaper didn’t think the public had a right to know, even in the wake of criticism over the recent decision not to publish the race of a Racine sexual assault suspect while he was at large.

In the case of last week’s hold-up, readers of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – and the university community – were asked to simply use their imaginations.

Said the newspaper about the March 1 robberies: No detailed description of the suspects was available, and the victims’ recollections of the suspects’ appearances varied.

University relations - which itself provoked controversy recently by deleting the race out of a suspect description in an email alert - sent the newspaper account on the March 1 robberies to students on Friday in another essentially useless exercise.

The newspaper’s account was not exactly true. A quick call to Milwaukee police revealed that there were some details the victims’ recollections did not vary on: Namely, the suspects’ race and gender.
The omission of the key information was not inadvertent.
[Reporter Tom] Held said the situation was discussed with an editor and the choice was made to omit the descriptions completely. That editor could not be reached for comment as he was out of the office. The editor-in-chief of the newspaper, Martin Kaiser, also could not be reached.
We can imagine instances where the race of a criminal would be moot. If he has already been taken into custody, and the crime isn’t racial in nature (not a “hate crime,” for example) the issue isn’t relevant.

But if the guilty parties are still at large, and if people need to be on the lookout for them, race most certainly is important.

Trying to conceal the fact that particular perps are black is an essentially useless exercise. Everybody knows that blacks commit a disproportionate number of crimes. That knowledge isn’t erased if the politically correct language police refuse to mention it aloud.

A ban on discussing this issue honestly simply guarantees that it can’t be addressed effectively.

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