Sunday, December 14, 2008

On Stenography

The coverage of our neighbor Johnny Okie's trial has been grim and lazy in both the local paper and the larger ones. Except for this confusing article in the KJ today, this tragic story has consisted of recounting what happens in the courtroom. Of course this is part of the story.

It's like day by day play by play for a sport, except that people probably know the rules of the sports they watch. Court is different. Without serious, professional attention to context and analysis of court procedure and state law, a play by play article for this kind of trial is destined to be crap. Trouble is, this kind of understanding takes hundreds of hours and reliable sources.

Parachuting in, landing in a community and trying to cover a story cold, as Joel Elliot does in the KJ article linked above, is bound to fail because the reporter has only a slight chance of quickly finding people who are both willing and able to be quoted who have useful and true information.

Two years ago Stephen Colbert called out the Washington Press Corps for its stenographic skills, so it's unsurprising that we in the hinterlands have the same problem. [n.b. the Lincoln County News editorial this week is especially to be avoided. My father the 40-year English teacher would have bled red ink all over it, complaining bitterly of vague generalities and painful banality.]

A couple essential questions I want answered, yet no one, as far as I can tell has broached:

I wish someone could explain why is this trial is taking up taxpayers' money, money that could be better spent on mental health training and care for public safety workers.

Why did six days pass and a second murder before the police effectively intervened?

My bias is upfront. John Okie was a friend. He died in a manner so tragic most of us cannot comprehend it. Karen Okie is a friend. Though I've come up short in every measure of that word, the least I can do is lobby for decent reporting of these terrible days.

No comments: