The DA’s lame attempt to become a citizen journalist

Local DA Ed Jagels has never received good press.

Local bloggers attack him (and here and here). Rolling Stone has gone after him, and he hasn’t received favorable treatment from the NYT. He’s been the subject of book critical of local law enforcement. His name has been associated with the infamous, possibly mythical, Lords of Bakersfield. In fact, if you Google Ed Jagels, you’ll be hard pressed to find any Web page with anything positive to say about the man, except on his own site.

And it’s not just his professional conduct that gets scrutinized. His relationship with his wife has also been media fodder.

Which makes his announced plan to fight back against the media all the more interesting. Specifically, Jagels is going to expose “Every Lie They Print” with The Bakersfield Californian as a target of special interest.

In its reporting of public safety matters, the Californian has raised journalistic lying to an art form. Of course, muckraking instincts and a vaguely anti-police agenda are hardly unique to the Californian. These are pretty much nationwide phenomena in the media. But the Californian’s law enforcement reporting has reached such a level of virulence that it must be judged a special case.

Unfortunately, it looks like Jagels is planning to release his missives in PDF form, which only reveals a certain level of cluelessness about the Web. There will be no opportunity, such as a blog with comments would afford, for citizens to interact and refute or expand on Jagels claims. One is forced to wonder if Jagels can afford to expose himself to the same level of transparency, public accountability and truthfulness he now demands of the local media?

Among Jagels claims is that TBC distorts by taking quotes and information out of context, but right within the initial press release, Jagels does the very same thing:

Is there a reason? Well, in a (vain) effort to arrest its plummeting circulation, the Californian has changed its reporters’ mission. Instead of finding and reporting the news on a given beat, they have been ordered to write so-called “impact stories.” “Impact story” is a euphemism for: “Go find a scandal. If you can’t find one, invent it.” And they are convinced these so-called scandals involving law enforcement sell newspapers.

Which is a complete misrepresentation of what an impact story is, and turns the concept into a strawman. An impact story can be one about a mother who dedicated her life into turning her son into an Eagle scout, if the story is told well enough to have some wallop. It’s about finding stories that impact the community, and getting away from what the City Council or the DA spoon feeds you (boring, snoozer stuff that is too easy to report and too easy for a reader to ignore).

Additionally, while calling TBC on the carpet for falsehoods, Jagels gives himself and his team plenty of wiggle room for their own inaccuracies (I can hear it now, “Oh, that was just a joke,” or “couldn’t you see we were being sardonic?”), along with his over-the-top claim that “we can’t expose every inaccuracy.”

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