I Was Wrong
Well, only part wrong. When I blogged about the latest Morgan Quitno Press crime ranking placing Memphis at #5 for metropolitan areas over 500,000 (16 in all cities) I joked they wouldn't report it. Well, the did! Eventually. And, if you read the whole story closely, you see they still put all sorts of weasel phrases and fudges into the story to cut it's impact.
There are complaints about methodology, of course, though you usually don't see such attention paid in other CA stories where rankings or statistics or polling are concerned.
The story is also padded with anecdotal "evidence" from average citizens. These, of course, mean nothing. Maybe they could have added a couple of balancing stories from victims of 2005 crime? I can look from my front door any day and see drug dealing, prostitution, vagrancy, speeding, etc. We haven't crossed over into crimes of opportunity like mugging and stickups and robbery, but everyone on the block worries it's coming soon.
Regular Memphians know we have a crime problem. A bad one. We also have a police problem. We routinely go through new police Chiefs. The paper and the television news regularly report about new probes, investigations, allegations and arrests involving Memphis police. But they don't paint these individual stories into a larger canvas where people can figure out what to do. It's all treated as isolated cases in an otherwise healthy system.
Partly, it's their fault. But partly it's the nature of their media. They sprint every day to keep up with the latest press releases. Once in a while, I wish they would take someone off the track and give them the time and resources to look deeply into the issue.
Inviting the usual suspects to write guest editorials, which are often little more than smoke and mirrors or ass-coverings, isn't the way to go. It's always the same people with the same excuses. Look deeper; invite the true critics to speak. Find and report on the cities that are making dramatic turn-arounds in their own corrupt police and dangerous communities.
More importantly for the media, get away from the same old reliance on police and authorities to take care of things and start showing the average citizens how to take care of themselves. Rather than get all breathless wide-eyed when a citizen kills a criminal, examine what happened carefully. Report responsible gun use in self-defense as the right thing to do, which it is. Report neighborhood action to root out and clean up drug problems. I had a friend tell me how his neighborhood, which is Mexican-American, had a house taken over by crack dealers and users. The men of the neighborhood one day gathered with their bats and paid the house a visit. The drug problem went away.
OOOOOH! some of you are shrieking. Civil rights! Vigilantes! Nope. It's about protecting my personal and property rights against those who don't respect them. You have a drug problem or a job problem? Too bad. I'll help you get clean and look for a job, but it's your problem. Deal with it. Don't pass along your consequences for poor choices to me. I've got enough of my own to deal with.
On a related note, there's a story I've wondered about that doesn't seem to be on anyone's radar. New Orleans was a notoriously corrupt and gang-ridden city. When its residents scattered after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, those gang-bangers went somewhere. I'd like to know where. Are they moving to places like Memphis, taking up residence and fighting with the established gangs, or are they being absorbed by their brothers? Tens of thousands of gang members didn't suddenly clean up their act and go straight. They just moved, taking their attitudes and problems with them. Did they come here? In what numbers? How is that affecting us? What does it mean?
I doubt the Memphis police will give straight answers. After all, they lied to us for years about the gang problem even existing in Memphis when the evidence was everywhere. So why isn't the media going into this?
Oh, wait. I just reread the story above. I got my answer.