Crime News… Whose Perspective?

Obviously I love to troll the press and media releases for local crime.  They amuse me.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  What’s not really amusing, though, is how much they influence what shows up in the newspaper…. and how they get there.

If you read a newspaper article and don’t know what’s going on, you’d think a newpaper reporter was sitting in a courtroom watching trials as they unfold.  That certainly does happen a lot of the time.  What happens more often is that a reporter sits in for parts of a trial.  That’s exactly what was going on when the back of my head made the Huffington Post last year. Of course, in that case, the parts of the trial the reporters weren’t sitting in on were the ones where we presented our side of the case.  Crazy how that works.

Anyhow, what seems to be happening more often (especially in Kane County) is that media and press releases are pushed out to media outlets, who then write stories based largely on the reports.  Of course, those reports are coming from the Kane County State’s Attorneys office, and the police departments.

For example, take this story in the Elgin Courior News:

South Elgin woman guilty of filing false child abuse reports

From Submitted Reports December 6, 2013 4:42PM
Updated: December 9, 2013 12:30PM
A South Elgin woman has been found guilty of making a false report of child abuse that included coloring her young son with ink and claiming it was bruising caused by the boy’s stepmother, the Kane County State’s Attorney Office said.
Kimberly Carlyle, 47, of the 200 block of Nicole Drive, was convicted Friday in a trial before Circuit Judge Susan Clancy Boles of two counts of disorderly conduct, each a Class 2 felony

This story says it’s from “submitted reports” on December 6, 2013.  I wonder what “submitted report” that might be?

It’s not hard to find, really.  On December 6, 2013 the twitter account for the Kane County State’s Attorney’s office posted as follows:

If you follow that link, it takes you right to a prepared, pre-formatted press release from the Kane County prosecutor’s office.  If you go ahead and look through the Kane SAO twitter account, you’ll find all sorts of links to press releases, too.

It doesn’t take much investigation to figure out that that press release was a major source for the newspaper story.  According to the press release:

Kimberly Carlyle, 47 (d.o.b. 7-29-1966), of the 200 block of Nicole Drive, South Elgin, was convicted today by Circuit Judge Susan Clancy Boles or two counts of disorderly conduct, each a Class 2 felony.

Carlyle waived her right to a jury trial.

According to the newspaper:

Kimberly Carlyle, 47, of the 200 block of Nicole Drive, was convicted Friday in a trial before Circuit Judge Susan Clancy Boles of two counts of disorderly conduct, each a Class 2 felony.

Carlyle waived her right to a jury trial.

Press release:

On Sept. 6, 2009, Carlyle called the Kane County Sheriff’s Office to report that her young child had been physically abused during a visit with the child’s biological father and his wife. Carlyle claimed that bruises she said appeared on her child were the result of physical abuse. When a sheriff’s deputy told Carlyle that she had contacted the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to investigate further, Carlyle acknowledged that the bruises were actually ink that had since washed off. When contacted later by DCFS, Carlyle apologized, acknowledged that the bruising marks were actually ink and said that she had no reason to believe that the child was being abused.

Newspaper:

According to prosecutors, on Sept. 6, 2009, Carlyle called the Kane County Sheriff’s Office to report that her young child had been physically abused during a visit with the child’s biological father and his wife. Carlyle claimed that bruises she said appeared on her child were the result of physical abuse. When a sheriff’s deputy told Carlyle that she had contacted the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to investigate further, Carlyle acknowledged that the bruises were actually ink that had since washed off.

When contacted later by DCFS, Carlyle apologized, acknowledged that the bruising marks were actually ink and said that she had no reason to believe that the child was being abused.

I could keep going on, but I won’t. You get the idea- the article is practically a word-for-word regurgitation of the Kane County State’s Attorney’s media release.  It’s not so much an article as it is a rebroadcast of a prosecutor’s statement about the outcome of the case.  If the defendant had been found not-guilty, then what would the Kane County State’s Attorney’s press release say?  There wouldn’t be one, of course.

This happens nearly every day, all over Chicagoland.

So, when you’re reading the news are you really reading the news? Or are you reading propaganda from a prosecutor or police department?  I certainly have my opinion on that.

Author: matthaiduk

Matt Haiduk is a criminal defense lawyer in Illinois. He loves his dog. And pizza.

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