Friday, June 6, 2008

Credit where it’s due

The Poynter Institute is a non-profit organization that describes itself as "a school for journalists, future journalists, and teachers of journalists." The Institute also owns a newspaper, the St. Petersburg Times. Although Poynter's website may be best known among reporters as the home of the industry's foremost news and gossip column, there also is a section called "Everyday Ethics." That section devoted an excellent column to the work of the reporter who has led the field in coverage of the FLDS case, Brooke Adams of The Salt Lake Tribune. The column offers several reasons why her reporting has been so much better than much of what's turned up in the national media and the Texas press. In the column's comments section, I added one more:

Not only Brooke Adams, who is superb and indefatigable, but many of her predecessors on the child welfare beat at the Salt Lake Tribune, such as Kirsten Stewart and Ashley Broughton, took nothing at face value from anyone – but listened to everyone. They were open to all points of view, relentless in checking out everyone's claims, and, most important, willing to be as skeptical of those presumed to be the "good guys" as they are of those stereotyped as the "bad guys." The Deseret News, though owned by the Mormon Church, [which can't stand the FLDS] also was notably open-minded and enterprising in some of its later coverage.

In contrast, a couple of the key Texas reporters have always drenched their coverage in sneer and swagger and routinely shut out any of us who might suggest that child welfare agencies sometimes go overboard and harm children in the process. To them, CPS is always right when it takes children and only wrong when it leaves them in dangerous homes.


My thanks to a reader of this Blog, who has found a second newspaper outside Texas and Utah siding with CPS, one that's bigger than the one in Croydon, Indiana. The Providence Journal weighed in back on May 31. The reader took issue with them in a letter to the editor that was not published. But at least the Journal is consistent. Rhode Island takes away children at one of the highest rates in the country, and I've never known the Journal to object. I remain amazed, though not surprised, that so many other newspapers have deluded themselves into thinking they're practicing some sort of weird, cowboy child welfare in Texas. They rightly condemn Texas CPS, but it never occurs to them that the same stuff is going on in their backyards every day.