Mar. 22, 2012 | When a well-known Alameda blogger and critic of city government, including its public safety agencies, was charged Monday with misdemeanor battery of his wife, knives long sharpened by members of the community and bloggers swiftly came out for his scalp. The blogger long known for being a thorn in the side of many who crossed his opinions came into unfortunate public view, but the problem lays not with the alleged horrifying act on a loved one, but whether it was actually newsworthy.
Upon reading the account last Friday in the Alameda Patch, I tweeted on The Citizen, “I don’t think the allegations against the author of @ActionAlameda is news. I’m sure the police do since he’s been tough on them.” The blogger in question had previously written sharp criticisms of the Alameda Police Department and had been at the forefront of needling both police and fire over the tragic bungling of the Memorial Day drowning death last year of Raymond Zack.
There are questions to be asked whether the Alameda Police department, cognizant of the tenor of the blogger’s past critiques made it easier for the allegations against him to come to light. Domestic violence charges are not normally readily available, yet this one was contained in mundane daily police logs were somehow highlighted. Such a finding without outside guidance is as rare as finding a needle in a haystack.
The question to be asked is whether the offending blogger’s brush with the law constitutes newsworthiness. Absolutely not, I say, as would most newspaper people. In no sphere is his alleged problems with domestic violence fodder for news. While there is no legal basis against publication, editorially though , nothing about the blogger’s public status rises to the level of newsworthiness.
It was my initial suspicion that the description of the man’s title from mere “blogger” to “publisher” in the Alameda Patch article was meant to artificially enhance his newsworthiness. It is the reason I sent this additional tweet last Friday: “@AlamedaPatch Does one have to allegedly get rough with loved ones to get promoted from blogger to publisher?”
If the mentioned blogger had once run for public office, established a base line within the public realm where he had forcefully fought against domestic violence or had risen to public notoriety in some other form, then the question of newsworthiness might barely drift into the positive.
I can appreciate the sense of payback involved in the coverage of this blogger’s personal problems. Apparently the blogger is known to have no problem with slapping a lawsuit or two on his enemies–even reportedly on Christmas. Instead, those participating gleefully in the blogger’s demise should call up their friend with the news and high-five each other while stomping on his proverbial grave, but don’t report it as news story, because it isn’t.
The fear I would have in publishing an article like this one is what might occur if the charges turn out to be bogus, not for fear of litigation, but because the source material provided on the police logs are so sparse. Another question is why Alameda Patch also provided a .pdf of the police logs also containing information of all other actions made by law enforcement that same day.
The criticism today of my tweets regarding the issue of the story’s prominence by Lauren Do, another Alameda blogger, is totally misguided and wrongfully deflects criticism away from Alameda Patch. Although I appreciate the mention, this has nothing to do with supporting or opposing domestic violence, whatsoever, and everything to do with good journalism.