Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Wilkerson Part 2: What to do when the official story is questionable

I got two angry comments on my Wilkerson post. (Two posts down.) I'm afraid I erased one by mistake. Sorry Anonymous. Feel free to repost. I’ve responded as well.

While I disagree with the comments, they made me think and raise an important issue. If you think someone is being unfairly targeted by regulators or police, how to you report on that? It happens all the time – people are convicted of tax evasion, perjury and campaign finance laws because they are African American or communist or gay or religious or the Governor’s ex-brother-in law.

But, we usually base our reports on official sources – police, regulators and government officials. What if you think the officials are lying or doing something wrong themselves? My answer – do a little digging and get at the truth. That’s what investigative journalism is all about. That's what Errol Morris did for a death row inmate in his movie The Thin Blue Line. (He did a lot of digging.) I'll look for some other examples but the obvious ones come to mind -- Watergate, White House approval of torture and phone taps, police corruption.

Short of that, you quote the person saying he or she got shafted and ask for some evidence.

This two-year-old story from Boston magazine on Wilkerson gets at it a bit. (FYI: I don’t like the lead much.) It's a bit he-said-she-said but it does raise some good points in defense of the Senator, including the apparent triviality of one of her campaign finance violations -- as pointed out in the comment.

But, how do you reflect that in the ongoing coverage? It can be hard. Here, The Bay State Banner handles it with a two paragraphs in their election night coverage.

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