By DAVID R. FRAZIER, editor
Recent conversations with friends and a GUARDIAN reader’s comment about getting nothing but press releases from the local media got us to thinking about past and present.
Nearly 50 years ago I was the police and fire reporter at the STATESMAN, covering cops, fires, and the courts. Both the Ada Sheriff and the Boise PD had a clip board set up so I could read EVERY report generated by the officers. Granted there weren’t so many reports, but the daily log was a treasure trove of news.
We published stories of most felony offenses, deaths, and all the “fun stuff” coppers encounter during a shift. As a result, when a compressor was taken from a job site in Boise it was common for a farmer in Eagle to find it in his corn field. If a prominent businessman filed a false theft report, his “girlfriend” read the report and tipped the coppers.
Not so today. Reporters find it nearly impossible to read timely incident reports. The police employ their own news staffs who decide WHAT to release and then they WRITE the stories. The GUARDIAN gets most of the releases and it astounds us when we see and hear the reports parroted by the local media.
Here is an example of a police-generated story by the State Police at Lewiston:
On May 29, 2018 at approximately 08:43 a.m. an injury crash occurred on Arrow Highline Road, just north of the SH3/US12 junction. A 2007 International truck loaded with propane driven by Shaun Barber, 35, of Genesee, was eastbound on Arrow Highline Road when the vehicle moved too far right and entered the right hand shoulder. The shoulder gave way under the weight of the truck.
The truck rolled at least once landing on the tires on the railroad tracks below. The driver was able to exit the vehicle, close the safety valve and call for help. No propane was spilled or vented. The vehicle was removed under its own power off the railroad tracks. Barber was transported to St. Josephs where he was treated and released for minor injuries. The investigation is ongoing.
Now that is a story! Talk about a lucky guy. Not even Hollywood stuntmen could manage to flip a virtual ten ton bomb, land on a railroad track and then drive away. Coppers can’t inject their commentary into stories, but a good reporter and editor team would have that incident on the front page and followed by media worldwide.
When a car was stolen recently in Boise with an infant inside, the copper-generated news simply didn’t add up. They reported the car was left running at a convenience store with the baby inside. When the thieves took off, “a parent” supposedly chased it down on foot. One of the inadvertent kidnappers handed over the baby and waited around for coppers while the driver fled and was arrested next day.
The account is simply unbelievable. No felon waits around for the cops. No questions were raised about the negligent parent leaving the car running with the kid inside. Had to be a custody squabble or something, but the police news writing was severely lacking at best.
Side note: It appears to several media watchers that the Idaho Press Tribune (or “IDAHO PRESS”) is making a move on the Statesman. The Adams publishing family now owns Idaho Falls, Pocatello, and the Nampa-Caldwell-Meridian print media outlets. They picked up veteran political reporter Betsy Russell from the Spokane Spokesman and it would seem they are on the verge of becoming “Idaho’s Newspaper.” Let’s hope they are able to cover more than press releases.
With no printing press and a small staff, the venerable Statesman has lost much of its former clout becoming the “vulnerable” Statesman.
See IDAHO PRESS for details of the move on Boise.
To insure more advertising-free Boise Guardian news, please consider financial support.