By Tracy Dingmann
Kudos to the Journal and education reporter Hailey Heinz for tamping down the hysteria over a phantom “recommendation” that was supposedly going to be discussed at an APS subcommittee Wednesday.
In a metro page story headlined “Parents Protest Condom Distribution,” Heinz writes rather tartly (for a news story, that is) about an organized protest at the School Health Advisory Council meeting.
More than 50 parents showed up to the subcommittee meeting to protest the committee’s recommendation that schools distribute condoms on campuses, Heinz wrote. (Through emails and blog posts, a local “traditional values” group had heavily promoted the meeting in advance and urged parents to attend and oppose condom distribution.)
But, as Heinz wrote:
The problem was, the School Health Advisory Council never put forth any such recommendation. And even if it had, it doesn’t have the authority to make policy and isn’t a voting body.
At its last meeting, the committee had discussed whether to make a recommendation to the entire school board regarding condom distribution in schools, she wrote.
In the meantime, though, the entire board went ahead and voted to maintain its current policy, which says birth control can be prescribed at school-based health clinics (per state law protecting patient confidentiality) but which prohibits condoms from being distributed on campuses, Heinz wrote.
I thought the story (minus the misleading headline) did a good job of laying out the facts. A protest occurring at a public school meeting certainly warranted some kind of coverage. But Heinz wrote about the protest in a way that made it clear it was based on incorrect information – and gave readers the real story about what the schools are really doing instead.
More of that kind of reporting, please!
Not Exactly a Gold Standard
On the other hand, I’m still shaking my head over Journal editors’ decision to place a story about a local television news reporter’s arrest on Page 1.
“TV Reporter Arrested in Domestic Abuse,” read the front-page story about KOAT-TV reporter Ilana Gold, who APD officers arrested Wednesday for alleged domestic violence.
That’s a story…I guess. But it’s not a page one story.
Let’s put it in perspective. In newspapers, placement is paramount. This piece, about the questionable arrest of a local TV news reporter, ran right below an article on the state’s revenue forecast, for God’s sake. I don’t think it’s that important.
Now let’s look past the questionable placement and examine the story the Journal did run.
As a story itself, it wasn’t too bad. It certainly reflected the widespread puzzlement I’ve heard all over the city regarding exactly why this woman was arrested and charged with larceny and battery.
Here’s the lead:
When police arrived at Joey Villaseñor’s apartment early Wednesday morning, the 6-foot-tall, 185-pound cage fighter with a professional record of 27-8 told officers he was “afraid because he did not know what (his ex-girlfriend) would do,” according to court records.
The ex-girlfriend was Ilana Gold, a 30-year-old KOAT-TV reporter and former professional figure skater who stands 5 feet tall and weighs 110 pounds.
Nicely done. And reporter Jeff Proctor did a good job of at least raising almost all the other key questions as well, such as why police arrested Gold when, according to the police report, all she did was pull out her boyfriend’s hoodie string and refused to give him back his garage door opener.
According to an APD spokeswoman, domestic violence laws gave APD cops no choice but to arrest Gold, Proctor writes.
“If we didn’t intervene and make an arrest, and she went back and hurt him or worse, then we would have that whole issue to deal with,” APD spokeswoman Trish Hoffman told Proctor.
Also, Gold covers APD pretty vigorously as part of her job. Did APD officers know who she was when they arrested and charged her? According to an APD spokeswoman, they did not, Proctor writes.
So Proctor did his job and asked all the right questions. But remember – but it’s not up to him to decide whether to put this thing on the front page.
That’s up to the editors – who, I can’t help but notice, seem to have a quite a fascination with locally prominent women accused of domestic violence.
In the past five years, I can think of at least three such women who’ve been accused of domestic violence (against a man) who have had their police reports plastered across the Journal’s front page. (I won’t be mentioning them here.)
Does the Journal make these front-page placement choices simply because of the “man bites dog” quality of the stories (since woman-on-man domestic violence is statistically rarer than the other way around)?
Or is there something else going on in the brains of those at the Journal’s tippy top?
I have no earthly idea what’s going on – but I sure would love to ask them that question someday.