Research continues to show that the majority of Americans no longer trust news media.
In September, Gallup.com published a story with the headline “Americans’ Trust in Mass Media Edges Down to 41%” which states that more than half of our country’s news-consuming population is “largely mistrustful of the mass media.” Gallup states “this latest reading represents a four-percentage-point dip since last year and marks the end of improvements in back-to-back years after hitting an all-time low.”
Hyper-local news media have often been immune from this broad-stroke criticism, likely because the charge of “fake news” is heard more often when circulation is measured in millions instead of tens of thousands, and when viewership is determined by time zones rather than county by county.
At the same time, there has been a mighty churn in print and broadcast media caused by the distribution of news online, people’s changing news-consumption habits and the juggernaut that is social media. Adding the loss of reader/viewer trust makes it even more difficult for legitimate news outlets to survive.
So, in the “Ain’t we got enough trouble?” department, we were appalled when a local newspaper columnist chose to blow right past journalism ethics and make herself part of a high-profile story.
During the public comment period at City Council’s Dec. 10 meeting, local activist and Gazette columnist Rachel Stovall addressed Council as a member of the public (tinyurl.com/s57v9cq, beginning at 47:30), decrying leadership’s response to the recent removal of a memorial for 19-year-old De’Von Bailey, who was shot and killed this summer by police. Officers had escorted city workers to the Southeast K-Land neighborhood where they dismantled a memorial that reportedly included graffiti and marijuana left in the open.
Stovall said, “Unlike many in this room, as soon as the [shooting] took place, I was on the ground with the Gazette within a few days — talking to residents listening to people, hearing things in the neighborhood. … I have never seen so many citizens afraid of the police. … I think I’m going to use the majority of [my] time here to give you a preview of this week’s coming column.”
Stovall, providing that preview, referred to the recent vandalism of the Olympic City USA sign that welcomes commuters from the north. Red paint was splashed on it along with the sentence “De’Von will not RIP.”
Stovall lectured Council, saying that “Colorado Springs leadership needs to formally apologize for desecrating the memorial of De’Von Bailey. All [the Colorado Springs Police Department] had to do was leave these people alone.”
She went on to attack the Southeast’s elected representative, Yolanda Avila, stating, “The silence of the Southeast city representative [Avila] has added fuel to the fire.”
Stovall announced she would “gladly help negotiate peace between the aggrieved parties and city officials but an apology [for removing Bailey’s memorial] is a starting place, not the ending one.”
Stovall then listed her requirements for moving forward, which included placing one of the officers involved in the shooting on a desk assignment, as well as facilitating a “clean memorial” in the neighborhood.
She ended her oration with: “Colorado Springs leadership: Pay more attention to your citizens and less attention to your ego” … and “Finally, the next time I tell you in writing in the paper to leave grieving people alone — do it.”
We understand Stovall is a columnist, paid to publish her opinion. We are also aware that dragging the Gazette (which allegedly lives by journalistic ethics) into her Council statement to further her own agenda is highly unethical.
Stovall’s grandstanding just makes it tougher for legitimate, ethics-honoring news media to do their work. Rachel, will you please sit down.