Yes, TIM is dead. Or at least "temporarily deactivated." The Boynton Beach Police Department's experiment in calling truth to media has been called off, according to a new posting on the department's website, after complaints came from newspapers that the department was engaging in a "bunker mentality" and "attacking individual reporters."
TIM was installed by Stephanie Slater, the Palm Beach Post crime writer and Florida Press Club president-turned-BBPD spokeswoman. But the backlash was apparently too great to keep TIM, or Truth in Media, alive. Wrote Slater:
In an effort to promote goodwill with our media partners, the department has decided to temporarily deactivate our T.I.M. (Truth in Media) program. We are not interested in adversarial relationship with the media and it appears that our effort to provide accurate and objective information to our residents has started us on that road. We implore our media partners to do their research, report the facts accurately and resist the temptation to
make the news, in lieu of reporting the news. We will continue to do our part provide you with whatever facts we can to help you.
Gosh, you try to bring a little truth -- or at least some accurate and objective information -- into the world and what do you get for it? Nothin' but grief. For some background on the matter, and a small but prickly debate by commenters, check out the Pulp's original post about TIM.
Look, there's nothing inherently wrong with police departments and other governmental agencies rebutting news reports on the Internet. But Slater took a wrong turn. Her effort was marred as much by style as it was substance, starting with that flag-festooned eagle. Yes, the eagle is a symbol for America and freedom, but in this context it also screams: "Cheap Propaganda!" It also tacitly says, "I represent true America and you don't!" There can hardly be any greater arrogance than that.
Once you get past the jingoism, there's the tone of that first post about the Sun-Sentinel story. There were obvious deficiencies with the Sentinel's headline and story, but Slater's critique read more like a ranting e-mail (or, um, blog post) than it did a professional rebuttal -- and that's what led to the complaints that it was a personal attack against the reporter and the newspaper. It's a pretty easy allegation to make, since Slater was only weeks ago working at the Post competing against the Sentinel.
The lesson this should teach the P.R. gurus out there is that their challenges to the accuracy of media reports will be -- or at least should be -- scrutinized as much as the newspaper articles and TV reports they criticize.