Update: Today, The Jackson Free Press issued the following corrections:
"editor's note: The above story and "Sharpton Defends The 'Jena 6'" (Vol. 5, No. 47) have been corrected to remove the association of Justin Barker with the noose-hanging incident at Jena High School. Barker has been reported as a friend of the noose-hangers, whose names have not been disclosed, but not as a co-conspirator in the noose incident. This error was not intentional. xxx xxx and The Jackson Free Press apologize for the error. "
Credit is given where credit is due. At least the JFP corrected its errors, which is more than I can say for The Clarion-Ledger, which rarely corrects errors pointed out by bloggers or other media outlets.
The Jackson Free Press published several stories covering the Jena 6 case in Jena, Louisiana. This is no surprise as the JFP has stated repeatedly it is committed to social justice and fighting racial discrimination in all forms, truly admirable and respectable goals.
However, in its coverage of the Jena 6, a reporter at the JFP, committed several egregious errors. In fact, they are so egregious they could be considered to be slander or libel.
In two stories, xxx xxx states Justin Barker, the White student who was beaten up by the Jena 6, was involved in the noose-hanging" incident three months earlier at the school. She writes: "Justin Barker and his friends at Jena High School were wrong to hang nooses from a tree under which black students had congregated the day before." ( "Let the Punishment Fit the Crime", October 3, 2007 )http://www.jacksonfreepress.com/comments.php?id=15054_0_63_0_C
On Dec. 4, 2006, the six black students attacked one of the white males involved with the noose hanging, Justin Barker, at school. He suffered a concussion and bruises, but later that same night, he went out to a social gathering. Meanwhile, the Jena Six went to jail and are facing the harshest sentences possible for the fight. ("Sharpton Defends the Jena 6", August 8, 2007) http://www.jacksonfreepress.com/print.php?id=14477_0_4_0
This is very sloppy reporting, so sloppy it could be considered libelous. There has been no suggestion in the media that the victim, Mr. Barker, was involved in the noose-hanging incident. In fact, several authorities and media sources have stated he was NOT involved in said incident.
The Town Talk, which covers the Alexandria, La region, stated:
"Barker wasn’t one of the three students disciplined for the noose incident, and he hasn’t been named in any of the fights in Jena leading up to the Dec. 4 incident."
Darryl Fears of The Washington Post, that bastion of right-wing conservatism and racism, wrote: "The victim in the beaten that resulted in the charges was said to have been one of the participants in hanging the nooses. That couldn't be verified."
Snopes also stated Mr. Barker was not involved in the noose incident. It quotes the District Attorney, Reed Walters: "The victim in this crime, who has all but been forgotten, was a young man named Justin Barker, who was not involved in the nooses incident three months earlier." http://www.snopes.com/politics/crime/jena6.asp
These sources were found after googling "was Justin Barker involved with the noose incident?" It took less than ten minutes to find these passages. xxx cites no sources or evidence in support of her writing that Mr. Barker was involved with the noose incident. Only xxxx can say if this was intentional or merely sloppy reporting. However, when one engages in so-called advocacy journalism, just because a reporter wants something to be true does not mean it is.
Miriam-Webster Dictionary defines libel as: "a written or oral defamatory statement or representation that conveys an unjustly unfavorable impression b (1): a statement or representation published without just cause and tending to expose another to public contempt (2): defamation of a person by written or representational means (3): the publication of blasphemous, treasonable, seditious, or obscene writings or pictures (4): the act, tort, or crime of publishing such a libel." However, the law in Mississippi is much more forgiving and allows for honest mistakes. See Section 95-1-5 of the Mississippi Code of 1972, http://www.mscode.com/free/statutes/95/001/0005.htm.
It is also interesting how xxx omits for the most part any mention of Mychel Bell's prior criminal history. See earlier post: http://kingfish1935.blogspot.com/2007/09/what-is-truth-here-thugs-or-theologians.html. Mr Bell had numerous arrests for violent crimes and was convicted of at least one, which is why he was on probation in the first place. Snopes stated: "Prosecutors in his case revealed that Bell had been convicted as a juvenile for attacking someone a year prior to the Jena 6 assault, then committed three more crimes while on probation for that one, which meant the Jena 6 verdict marked his fifth conviction for violent crimes." (His criminal record is discussed in my post cited above in a news report from the Baton Rouge newspaper).
These earlier convictions and criminal history are why Mr. Bell's probation was revoked last week. To put it mildly, Mr. Bell is a thug who was also a star football player. He was given a free pass until he beat Justin Barker. Everyone is familiar with the double standard for jocks which occurs in too many schools. Compare his treatment to incidents at Brandon and Morton High Schools where football players who were arrested were suspended from the team after they were arrested the first time, not the second....or third....or fourth....or fifth.... you get the idea.
In another display of ignorance, Blogger L.W. writes on the JFP website: "He has to spend 18 months in a juvenile facility for violating his probation. However, the charges are old and weren't brought up until now..." . This statement is simply not true and is completely at odds with the facts. In fact, she quoted a column by Jason Whitlock where he disclosed Bell's December, 2005 conviction for battery, http://www.jacksonfreepress.com/comments.php?id=14950_0_27_0_C, so one fails to see how she can call these old charges with a straight face.
Earl Hutchison writes on the site as well: "The DA claims that several other scrapes with the law helped keep him there." http://www.jacksonfreepress.com/comments.php?id=14999_0_7_0_C Claims.....CLAIMS? There are no "claims" as you put it. Mr. Bell WAS arrested. He WAS convicted. He IS on probation. Even his own father admitted it to the Baton Rouge newspaper. One must wonder if this really is ignorance on display or just plain dishonesty.
One must ask why the writers over at the JFP so blatantly ignore the facts and information that basic research would provide. xxx is a good writer and it is clear she is passionate about several causes. It is nice to see young people take an interest in social justice while trying to improve our society. However, passion and a belief in one's cause is no excuse for sloppy journalism and getting the facts grossly wrong. In the age of the internet, these false statements about Mr. Barker can easily spread throughout the media. The fact they were printed by a weekly alternative newspaper is irrelevant in today's world of blogs, mobile news alerts, and websites. Since xxx wrote Mr. Barker was involved with the noose incident depsite all evidence to the contrary, it is a smear upon Mr. Barker, who was beaten to a pulp by the Jena 6 (Yes, he was at a school function that night, a function he attended with a beaten and swollen face according the The Times-Picayune.) .
On the pages and blogs of The Jackson Free Press, Ms. Ladd, the co-owner as well as a holder of a Master's Degree in Journalism from Columbia, wields her literary lead pipe against The Clarion-Ledger and other media outlets for sloppy journalism and violating the so-called best practices of journalism. (Make no mistake, they usually deserve it). However, what is good for the goose is good for the gander. If these false statements about Mr. Barker do not cross the line, it is hard to see what does. I care about social justice as I have a law degree and that means I don't like to see someone who was savagely beaten smeared for something he did not do, regardless of race. At the very least, xxx owes her readers a correction and Mr. Barker a public apology on the pages of The Jackson Free Press.
See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advocacy_journalism for a dicussion of advocacy journalism.
Note: Saw an interesting post by a blogger about this:
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Update: Today, The Jackson Free Press issued the following corrections:
May 21, 2013
King Features Syndicate
May 21, 2013
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Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).
Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.
Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".
In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.
In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.
Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.
Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!
This is definitely a Beaver production.
Note: Security provided by INS.
There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.
If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!
This is definitely a Beaver production.
Note: Security provided by INS.