Here’s an example of some bad journalism. At best it’s sloppy. At worst it is crass deceitfulness. I’ll just go ahead and report and let you decide.
This is a story about a small town news report that ended up getting some national attention.
Last month the owner of an apartment building in Albany, Oregon, decided to implement a ban on flags on vehicles in the parking lot. The story was picked up by the local newspaper, the Albany Democrat-Herald, with the unfortunately misleading headline: Apartment bans U.S. flags. In actuality, the policy banned all flags. A resident of the apartment complex was understandably upset and took the policy as an attack against his U.S. flags which, like all flags, were included in the ban.
From the local newspaper’s original story:
… American flags and others such as Mexican flags and college team flags were no longer allowed on vehicles parked at the complex … the rule applies to flag decals as well …
The newspaper later ran an editorial that further clarified the policy:
The management explained that it had a rule against flags of all sorts, including college and team banners as well as national flags, in order to avoid possible friction among the tenants.
A ban targeting the American flag while permitting others certainly would be offensive and it’s easy to see why that would get people riled up … if only that had been true. Based on the local newspaper reporting, however, it is crystal clear that the ban was not targeted at any specific flag. The policy applied to all flags regardless of content.
The story then got national legs as a ban of the American flag. In a slight twist on the truth, a local FOX affiliate in Boston then picked up the story and ran coverage under the headline: Let It Rip: Apartment flag ban. A video graphic on the site shows the American flag.
People living in an Oregon apartment complex are up in arms after their landlord asked them to keep the American flag off their cars.
Managers say they made the move because the image is offensive to some people.
Nowhere in the FOX coverage did they indicate that the ban was on all flags and didn’t specifically pertain to U.S. flags. In my opinion this is sloppy reporting because they probably wrote their short and and fluffy coverage. I suspect they didn’t conduct any investigation or attempt to interview anyone before they took the original piece of news and published it from a slightly different perspective. Like I said, I don’t know it was a deliberate attempt to deceive or not, but I do think it was sloppy.
Due to the national attention and bowing to pressure, no doubt exacerbated by the misleading focus on U.S. flags, management for the apartments eventually rescinded the policy.
The thing that confuses me the most is that this was essentially a non-story. If the nation wants a debate about a flag banning policy, go ahead and have that debate. The debate ended up being about a ban on U.S. flags, but that was never the policy. It was a total red herring. Of course, that sort of story is much more sensational and creates a lot more excitement than the more mundane actual truth.
Score another victory for opponents of critical thinking.