- A man was shot in Poughkeepsie. Police are looking for a suspect.
- The suspect is described as a “Spanish looking' man.
- News stories contain this phrasing provided by police.
- Here's the rub: Police are seeking a suspect who fled but the department did not provide any other qualifying information before asking that "anyone with information" call them about it.
This is a pretty clear example where the identifying information is not informative enough, but further, adding it to a story can potentially perpetuate stereotypes.
Obviously, you're not going to call the police if you see any of these:
- But let's put down our Twitter pitchforks, though. And let's make a lesson out of this.
- I get it. As a news organization, time constrains and all, you get a news release and transcribe it and quickly put it up without thinking about it twice. It's official information, after all, right? I' m pretty sure the journalists who saw this rolled their eyes when they saw it. And the Poughkeepsie police department probably needs some guidance on passing identifyers.
- However, as journalists, we do have a responsibility on how we pass that information, because ...
- I mean, really. You don't even have to think about this much. Just look at your stylebook.