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COLD FEET: Birds take to the ice as winter makes its appearance at Yellowstone National Park. / Photo by Nancy Williams

Today's word on journalism

Monday, November 5, 2007

On Objectivity:

"I still insist that 'objective journalism' is a contradiction in terms. But I want to draw a very hard line between the inevitable reality of 'subjective journalism' and the idea that any honestly subjective journalist might feel free to estimate a crowd at a rally for some candidates the journalist happens to like personally at 2,000 instead of 612 -- or to imply that a candidate the journalist views with gross contempt, personally, is a less effective campaigner than he actually is."

-- Hunter S. Thompson, from Fear & Loathing: CORRECTIONS, RETRACTIONS, APOLOGIES, COP-OUTS, ETC., a 1972 memo to Rolling Stone editor Jann S. Wenner, excerpted in the current (November 2007) issue of Harper’s Magazine (Thanks to alert WORDster Andy Merton)

Law should serve and protect us, not climate of fear

By David Baker

October 1, 2007 | Today, police are doing nothing more than protecting and serving the status quo. With their actions toward college students lately, officers are unknowingly creating a climate of fear.

Fear of being Tasered -- at a political rally.

Fear of having your house surrounded by policemen on a Friday night.

Fear of wearing something different that may cause suspicion.

There's no problem with enforcing the law. There's no problem with protecting and serving society. That's a police officer's job. The problem comes when officers completely disregard their purpose, lose sight of their duty to the public and act with a recklessness unacceptable for instruments of a sensible populace.

How does hassling a girl over an odd fashion choice -- a light-up star on a sweatshirt mistaken for a bomb -- serve the public?

How does using a concentration of officers to surround a house party and hand out minor-in-possession-of-alcohol tickets protect the public? Would that force better serve public safety by monitoring the roads for drunk drivers? Kids from that party, especially if they're underage, don't want to draw any more attention to themselves by driving. If they're not driving, how dangerous are they?

And, how does Tasering a loud-mouth college student trying to ask a question serve or protect the public?

College is an appropriate time to put your foot in your mouth. It's a time when mistakes are made, stupid things are said and crazy notions are explored. But it's all a part of a process.

A process of figuring out the world.

A process of figuring out ourselves.

A process of figuring out where we fit in the world.

For society, it's a process pumping new blood into the limbs of a public where pooling has occurred, creating stagnancy and a loss of feeling.

But the negative attitude of officers toward students yields overreactions that create a climate not conducive to growth. It corners off a students' world, making it a closed place, and facilitating the death of a circulatory system that brings oxygen into a dying organism.

Law enforcement should remember the goal, to serve and protect society. Making college students shirk back into their shells, turning them toward the blind acceptance of the status quo does nothing but stifle a process of exploration and evaluation key to the healthy growth of society.


Copyright 1997-2007 Utah State University Department of Journalism & Communication, Logan UT 84322, (435) 797-3292
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