Last month, Stephanie Slater was writing about crime and law enforcement for the Palm Beach Post. Now she's declared war on her former colleagues and competitors -- or at least those whom she deems to have gotten their facts wrong about her new employer.
As reported here, she recently left the Post to become spokeswoman for the Boynton Beach Police Department. Yesterday, she laid down the gauntlet to her former brethren. In a press release yesterday headlined "The Eagle Has Landed," Slater wrote that the police department "will no longer tolerate misinformation reported about our agency, its members or the service we provide."
So, using a bald eagle as a symbol, she started something on the police department's site called "TIM" or "Truth in Media." And apparently it's a bird that happens to serve as the symbol for the U.S. of A.
"The Boynton Beach Police Department has established this page in order to provide corrections or clarifications to news items which are inaccurately or not objectively reported," Slater explains on the TIM's first web page. "These errors and omissions are commonplace enough that we felt compelled to provide our residents and guests with the truth."
And the first story the former Post reporter goes after is one that appeared in her old competitor's newspaper, the Sun-Sentinel. (Strangely, the TIM page's URL is the same as the home page, so you have to go through the home page to get to it). The article in question, published Wedesday, is headlined: "Boynton fails to curb gang woes" with a subhed reading, "New loitering ban in effect, but no arrests."
Slater fries the article, authored by Erika Pesantes, in her pan. Some exerpts:
-- "Right off the bat, this headline and sub-head lead you to believe that Boynton Beach has “gang woes” that are going unaddressed, and that a lack of arrests under the city’s new anti-loitering ordinance is not good. And if you believe it, you are
-- "Whew. There’s a lot wrong here. Let’s break it down."
-- "True, as of May 28, when the story was printed, no one had been arrested under the new anti-loitering ordinance. The implication of this article is that this is an indication of failure. And it’s not. At all. In actuality, the lack of arrests is at least as indicative of voluntary compliance."
"... the story says that the 'flurry' has not yielded results. We ask that the Sun-Sentinel please provide their formula for quantifying success in the fight against gang violence. Better yet, please advise which government entity has been able to completely curb gang violence. We have no incidents of gang violence in the first five months of this year."
-- "Articles such as this one undermine our efforts and shift blame from those who are destructive with their freedom to those committed to responsively preserving this freedom. In the end, we have to wonder... is there a point to this story? Timeliness certainly played no part in it. The ordinance has been in effect just a little more than a month."
Get used to this kind of thing, reporters, with the bald eagles and all. BSO also has its own blog to battle the media and within a few years half the flacks in America will probably have something like TIM at their disposal. Often times, these sites are going to simply obscure the truth in favor of the governmental entity, as I've seen BSO do in the past. But in this case, I have to say, the headline did make grand conclusions -- that the P.D. had failed in its gang efforts and the loitering law wasn't working -- that simply weren't backed up by the story. Seriously, does the Sentinel want the P.D. to start throwing large numbers of people in jail for loitering? The article, though, wasn't nearly as ambitious as the headline and brought up some valid points. What's missing is ... comment from the police, i.e. Slater.
Yeah, there's more at work here than just your typical police/newspaper dispute over facts. Old tensions between the Post and Sentinel -- who really seem to generally despise one another in the fight for Palm Beach County -- are rearing their heads, both in the Sentinel and on the Boynton Beach police site.
But who, really, is the winner?
All of us, of course. This should be fun to watch.