Eclectic commentary from a progressive voice in the red state

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Can the Amarillo Globe-News get a simple story right? Uh, no

Once again (and it’s getting tiresome), I am compelled to criticize the Amarillo Globe-News for poor — if not slanted — reporting on the crime situation in the Bivins neighborhood; and, in line with journalistic ethics, I disclose it’s my neighborhood. Since I can’t, and won’t, talk to this reporter or her editor, I am going to leave the question of motivation aside. Further, because I know who the process works, I’ll also note that a reporter can get it right but an editor can ruin the accuracy of a story with ease.

Let’s start with the crime data. The numbers in the story are based on “emergency” calls that required a report; and, the story isn’t clear how the calls to the non-emergency number are accounted for. If you saw the ABC7 Amarillo report on racial profiling, the take-away from that story was that the data from Amarillo Police Department are flawed, and not necessarily through the fault of the department or the officers on the ground. But, leave that aside for a moment.

Accepting the data as reported in the article, note that the 2.6 percent drop between a two-month period between 2016 and 2015 in the reported incidents in the neighborhood “doesn’t jibe,” as the headline states. But, for the same period in between 2015 and 2014, the incidents jumped 20.8 percent. In other words, the tenfold increase is insignificant while a smaller increase is. Never mind, by the way, that we’re dealing with three data points for a daily paper (I don’t call the Globe-News a “newspaper” anymore) of record for a city to conclude that the residents of a neighborhood are unduly alarmist. Nor, in fact, did the paper moderate its labeling on the basis of the incidents at the businesses on the north side of our neighborhood.

Devoting most of the story to dissecting one incident is as bad as the mishandling of the data.
All this is in spite of APD spokesman Brent Barbee explaining clearly and accurately why the data are flawed. Even more, it’s my opinion that the APD is being very responsive to our concerns. Ed Drain, the new chief, seems to be more responsive to citizen input than the former chief. The patrol officers and supervisors have met with us and are aware of the concerns. The last paragraph of the story is far behind this curve (as is Mayor Paul Harpole). It’s clear that the APD is much further along than “looking into” our situation.

Whether it’s the Globe-News’ attempt to paint APD in a bad light, or people from the neighborhood in a bad light, isn’t clear. What is clear is, that between the data and the “putting a face” on the neighborhood with one incident, the Globe-News once again pretends to do journalism and produces content that can’t stand up to analysis.