Saturday, May 20, 2006

Urge overkill

Everybody loves a happy ending, when the hero rides off into the sunset after giving the bad guys their comeuppance. But there’s a point when telling a good story becomes a tool for pandering to the hero’s supporting cast, who really just sat to the periphery while the day was saved. As usual, it’s The Saratogian that has again managed to cross the line between good story-telling journalism and poorly balanced diatribes .

John Regan is going to jail for what District Attorney John Murphy has called the “maximum sentence” under state law for attempting to pull 17-year-old Lindsey Ferguson into his van while parked in a school parking lot and as the girl left cross country practice on Halloween last year. Although he hasn’t been sentenced and Murphy swears there was no plea bargain, all published reports have Regan serving 12 years in prison without parole, once he appears before County Court Judge Jerry Scarano next month.

While a certain degree of backslapping is necessary in this case, the true hero is Ferguson, who herself managed to kick away Regan, then scream for help. An honorable mention goes to the young runner’s two high school coaches, who not only logged the attempted abductor’s license plate, but also followed the man as he fled and alerted police of his direction of travel.

The Saratogian, in a report from what appears to be the majority of the staff working at the paper Friday, has managed to use the story as a way to again congratulate Murphy and a veritable laundry list of other public officials on a job well done, even though E. Stewart Jones, Regan’s defense attorney, basically characterized the case as a can't miss for the prosecution.

Among the congratulations given by The Saratogian –including segments attributed to both the managing and city editor –were praise for the city police, praise for the district attorney’s office, praise for the victim’s advocate, praise for the Lyalls for some reason, and of course, praise for Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno and his fellow Republicans. All this praise and they managed to squeeze it into an article of no less than 1,810 words, which totaled roughly 56 inches of news copy in the paper.

And amid all this congratulating and well wishing, The Saratogian failed to explain why, if no plea deal existed, Regan isn’t poised to get the maximum penalty under state law, which they reported last month as being 15 years in prison. It’s strange how passing days can erase such minutia as three whole years in a state prison from the minds of reporters and editors.

Even more strange is the blatant editorializing crammed into the bottom graphs of the prattling article, basically lauding the state Republicans for their efforts to push legislation know as Suzanne’s Law, while chiding the Assembly Democrats for not rubber stamping it.

Having penned an editorial on Suzanne’s Law just a scant four weeks earlier, most news editors would have recognized such a breach of journalistic ethics and removed it from the article. But then again, it is The Saratogian, which seems perfectly content to violate a whole host of ethics when it comes to reporting the news, including gross bias. Just ask 20-year-old Matthew Brady, the man beaten within an inch of his life by the doted son of U.S. Rep. John Sweeney.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


I was wondering if an increased security presence at all high school girls track meets and practices might help prevent such terrible occurences from happening in the future. A guard could even be positioned in the locker room. You never know when a van-owning pervert will strike next.

Let me know if I can be of service.


Security Officer

3:15 PM  

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