One of the questions that comes up in podcast #9 at 28:45 (available for listening below) is whether or not the news media unfairly represents police officers. If you watch the news frequently, the majority of what you’ll hear about the police (minus the occasional feel good story) is negative: cop beats homeless man, cop shoots black man, cop pepper sprays peaceful protestors, etc. A plethora of these kinds of stories being reported will usually elicit cries of bias and misrepresentation.
Really, this is a question that can be applied to any group the news reports on: politicians, bankers, Christians, doctors, etc. When the news reports that a politician is taking bribes, that bankers are manipulating the system, that a pastor had an affair, or that a doctor botched a surgery, are those groups justified in crying foul and claiming to be misrepresented? I think not.
When did it become the news’s job to represent a group of people? The news isn’t responsible for making sure we have a full understanding of everything the police do on a daily basis. An intelligent person should know that. The news’s job is to deliver newsworthy information. What makes something newsworthy is that it’s generally information you wouldn’t expect. The news doesn’t report on all of the uneventful traffic stops that happen because that’s not newsworthy. An uneventful traffic stop is the norm and what we expect. When they’re not uneventful, that’s when it becomes news!
So the problem (in this case) is not with the news. The problem is with those who watch the news. An intelligent person should understand that the police do a lot of good things, that many politicians aren’t in it for the money (ok, some politicians), that most surgeries are not botched, etc. He or she should understand that the reason it’s on the news is because it’s “newsworthy.” It’s an exception to the norm. This kind of understanding requires intelligence and a general knowledge of the world and how things work. Unfortunately, these attributes seem to be on the decline.
As for myself, until I start seeing uneventful traffic stops reported as news, I’m going to continue believing that, while there are problems that need to be fixed, the majority of police officers are people I’m glad to have serving.