A former Daily Times editor will be speaking on a University of Chicago panel on police reform.
Because of his involvement of reporting from the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri in the wake of the death of Michael Brown, Bob Strickley, a producer and web editor for Cincinnati.com and The Cincinnati Enquirer, has been asked to serve on the panel organizers (Black Law Students Association and Minorities in Public Policy Studies at the University of Chicago) hope can examine different facets of the criminal justice system as well as the topic of police brutality and reform.
Strickley, who was, at the time, editor of the Telegraph, a newspaper in Alton, Illinois, about 15 minutes from Ferguson, said his role is to provide perspective on the media’s role in reporting on these topics.
“I covered several press conferences with the now former chief of Police Thomas Jackson, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, Missouri State Trooper Capt. Ron Johnson and several others,” Strickley told the Daily Times. “I also was on the ground during some of the more peaceful demonstrations in addition to some of the more violent nights.”
In speaking with protesters, Strickley said he found a lot of people in a great deal of pain over the patterns of police behavior.
“People from around the region gave me personal examples or instances involving friends, family and relatives allegedly being mistreated by police,” Strickley said. “As difficult of a situation as I imagine the events in Ferguson were to actively police, I did witness questionable conduct by police and a distinct absence of leadership. Clearly there were also people present that were not interested in peaceful protests, but interested in exploiting some of the chaos.”
Strickley said, as a journalist, he learned a lot of valuable lessons on covering breaking news.
“While we all strive for accuracy, sometimes immediacy can hinder that. You see that a lot in the age of Twitter and cable news networks and Ferguson was perhaps a great case study that we have a responsibility to be deliberate in the news-gathering process.”
In covering civil rights events, Strickley said it’s important to capture the emotion and the source of the emotion from those involved.
“There was a lot more happening in Ferguson than tear gas and flipped cars,” Strickley said. “I found it important to know the motivations of the people demonstrating.”
Strickley said it is important to go deeper into the story in order to bring to the surface multi-layered factors that are not always covered in the media.
“I hope I can provide some cogent criticism to my own profession,” Strickley said. “Some of the media’s reporting on Ferguson distracted from the underlying issues in favor of the optics of cars burning. I get why that’s important, but my personal opinion is that systemic suppression of citizen rights is more important than property damage in the grand scheme of things.”
Strickley said he believes the conversation going on in the wake of the Ferguson, Baltimore, Cleveland, Chicago and even Cincinnati stories is now more focused on reforms and oversight.
“That’s good to see,” Strickley said. “There’s an odd, evolving balance that needs to be struck to keep those conversations ongoing. It’s a strange time in media where editorial departments aren’t on some pedestal dictating what is or isn’t news like they were for decades. Reporters, editors and readers are all engaged with each other in real-time due to social media and the internet overall.”
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