Friday, November 5, 2010

Foster care coverage at the Los Angeles Times: Are even Garrett Therolf’s editors getting tired of the hype and distortion?

            I didn’t notice it until it was pointed out by the LA Weekly’s Informer Blog, but there are some interesting differences between two versions of Garrett (anything for that Pulitzer) Therolf’s Los Angeles Times story hyping child abuse death numbers in Los Angeles County.
As LA Weekly reports:
The total deaths of children who had some kind of Department of Children and Family Services care or supervision actually went down, according to the DCFS' own numbers, from 169 in 2008 to 163 in 2009.
The Times appears to have thrown in gang-related homicides and other deaths unrelated to county care in its Oct. 18 online report, even though it admitted that some of the pre-2008 numbers used for comparison were flawed. The Times then appeared to take out those numbers and remixed a headline in its Oct. 19 print version of that story -- without explanation.
The paper, however, stuck with its assertion that abuse-or-neglect deaths of DCFS-supervised children rose  from 18 in 2008 to 26 in 2009.

            Of course, what Therolf still refuses to report is that, if there has been such an increase, the most likely cause, aside from random chance, is the foster-care panic he did so much to start.  Indeed, the link between such panics and increases in child abuse deaths is so strong that we predicted both during a news conference in Los Angeles more than 14 months ago.

            One can only hope that even Therolf’s editors are growing wary and/or weary of his hype, distortion and out-of-context reporting – reporting which increases the danger to the county’s vulnerable children.

            I wonder which version of the October 18 story Garrett will submit to the Pulitzer judges?