“Blue on black’ violence statistics explained

BY WILLIAM H. FREIVOGEL// An article of faith among those protesting Michael Brown’s death and among much of the media writing about the protests in Ferguson is that young African-American men are far more likely to be shot by police than young white men.

Much of the national media – The New York Times, USA Today, Christian Science Monitor, NBC, Daily Kos, Daily Beast and Vox among others – have quoted an October ProPublica study of FBI data showing that black males 15-19 years old were 21 times more likely than white males that age to be killed by police between 2010 and 2012.

What hasn’t gotten attention is that leading criminologists criticize the ProPublica findings as exaggerated. It’s true that black youths are killed more often than white youths, the critics agree, but the disparity over the past 15 years is much lower than over the three years featured by ProPublica. The longer period is more statistically accurate, they add.

Who’s leaking in Ferguson?

By WILLIAM H. FREIVOGEL// Attorney General Eric Holder said this week that he was “exasperated” by the flood of leaks from the criminal investigations of Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson’s shooting of Michael Brown on Aug. 9. He suspects local officials leaked the information favorable to Wilson, just as they had earlier leaked a video allegedly showing Brown robbing a convenience store owner.

But two of the three leaks – the ones in the Washington Post and the New York Times – were written by the newspapers’ Justice Department reporters in Washington. The Times story on Oct. 17 attributed the information to “government officials briefed on the federal civil rights investigation” – not the state criminal investigation.

Ferguson aftermath, two months later

By WILLIAM H. FREIVOGEL// Two months after Officer Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown, St. Louis remains at the vortex of a media whirlwind of live streaming video, social media, traditional media, national media and slanted cable and online outlets.

For this journalist of four decades, the coverage of such an important national story in our hometown is by turns exhilarating, anarchic, frustrating and frightening. Sometimes it seems like a shining example of a community working through deep, festering problems in a democratic fashion. At other times it feels like a mob as nasty Tweets on multiple hashtags fly by faster than they can be read.

Post/Times’ stories powerful; but are they ethical?

By WILLIAM H. FREIVOGEL// Post/Times’ stories powerful; but are they ethical? If a piece of journalism is so powerful that it captures the national conversation and results in positive reform, should it be immune from criticism for bias and inaccuracies?
That question is raised by a potent one-two punch administered by the Washington Post and The New York Times this month following up on the unrest in Ferguson, Mo.

The myths of Ferguson’s media coverage

By WILLIAM H. FREIVOGEL / If readers have the idea that Ferguson, Mo. is an angry, mostly segregated black community, they could be forgiven because that is how the community was portrayed in the New York Times a week after riots broke out. In fact, though, Ferguson is one of the most integrated places in the St. Louis area.

Ferguson protests and the First Amendment rights

By WILLIAM H. FREIVOGEL / Police appear to be violating the First Amendment rights of protesters and journalists in Ferguson by arresting and targeting journalists and by turning the right to assembly into a daytime-only right.

“Police and officials in Ferguson have declared war on the First Amendment,” said Gregory P. Magarian, a law professor at Washington University Law School. “Since Sunday’s police shooting of an unarmed student, Michael Brown, local officials and law enforcement have blatantly violated three core First Amendment principles: our right to engage in peaceful political protest, the importance of open government, and the freedom of the press.”

Hard choices for journalists covering Ferguson

By WILLIAM H. FREIVOGEOL / The police shooting of a teenager in Ferguson, Mo. and the looting that followed are presenting hard decisions for journalists covering this small suburban town that never expected to be an international dateline. How should the media cover this explosive story of race, rioting and alleged police brutality that unfolds in a sea of angry demonstrators and a Twittersphere of information and disinformation? Here are some of the issues.

False equivalencies undermine Gaza debate

By WILLIAM H. FREIVOGEL / As a liberal academic and a former liberal editorial writer, it is painful to watch as many liberal academics and a few liberal journalists impose false equivalencies upon Israel. Israel is just like the Nazis, some suggest, including most recently the African National Congress. Israel is just like South Africa during Apartheid, others say. Israel should be boycotted just like South Africa say those who support the “BDS” movement to boycott, divest and sanction Israel. And recently, with the terrible violence in Israel and the Gaza strip, the blame Israel game has reached new heights. Never mind that it was Hamas firing missiles into Israel that started the violence, or that Hamas places its weapons near civilians, schools and hospitals, or that Hamas vows to drive Israelis into the sea, or that Israel warns civilians when it is about to bomb. Israel is far from perfect. But Israel is not South Africa during Apartheid. Israeli law’s recognition of the rights of Arab citizens is significant and does not compare with Apartheid. Nor is Israel exterminating Palestinians. Any suggestion that it is acting like Nazi Germany is uninformed to say the least.

First Amendment is no refuge for Clippers owner’s remarks

By WILLIAM H. FREIVOGEL / Whether viewed from a legal, moral or ethical vantage point, the lifetime ban that NBA commissioner Adam Silver imposed on racist Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was just and correct. After Silver announced the punishment, the Twittersphere exploded with claims that the NBA had violated Sterling’s First Amendment right to free speech. The problem with that argument is the first word of the First Amendment: Congress.

Power of one pen

Adam Nagourney of The New York Times demonstrated the power of one reporter and one video this week with his story about defiant rancher Cliven Bundy’s racist remarks suggesting blacks were better off as slaves picking cotton. The New York Times was late to the story of Bundy’s refusal to follow federal grazing laws and…