Sunday, August 17, 2008

Reader rebukes Saunders, N&O

Raleigh News & Observer news columnist Barry Saunders' Aug. 5 column asked: “ Hey, Chief. Was it something I said?”

Saunders began - - -

For the past several months, Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez has treated me as countless exes have -- refusing to acknowledge my calls and in general treating me as though I'd tracked something nasty in on his new carpet.

What gives, yo?

Oh yeah: Chief Lopez apparently took issue with a nickname I tagged him with in January when he refused to talk to The N&O's reporters or give information about crimes in a timely manner.

In retrospect, the nickname was a low blow -- but funny. But being the man that I am, I called, invited him to a tete-a-tete and left numerous apologetic messages at his office and his home. (At a decent hour I left messages, mind you, since the chief famously scolded one of our reporters for calling him at home at 8 p.m. after police had shot and killed a fleeing home-invader downtown.)

Crime, I informed him then, is not a 9-to-5 vocation, and criminals aren't likely to time their activities to his convenience. …

There’s more before Saunders closes with:

Chief Lopez and his public no-information officer need to understand one thing: When we call or try to contact them, it's not because of their scintillating wit or charm. We're calling for information to share with citizens, their employers.

Me? I'd rather drink muddy water and sleep in a hollow log -- or listen to Kenny G at my dentist's office while receiving a root canal without anesthesia -- than chase after them for comment. It's part of our job to ask, though, and part of their job to inform the public about which dangerous dudes are lurking about.

If y'all would turn the page now, I'd like to say a few words in private to the chief, since this is apparently the closest I'll get to a private chat with him (unless I can accidentally run into him on purpose tonight during the annual National Night Out against crime):

Chief, let's put this little misunderstanding behind us and act professionally. Your petulance is unbecoming. It dishonors the fine officers in your department, and it doesn't help Bull City residents.

Call a brother; let's chat. I promise I won't call you anything but Chief.

Saunders' entire column's here.

Saunders' self-excusing and invocation of the “I speak for the people” trope drew the following letter published in the Aug. 15 N&O:

Regarding Barry Saunders' Aug. 5 column "Chief, call me; let's talk":
I could not help writing to comment on Saunders' snarky column about his problems obtaining information from the Durham Police Department. As a former law enforcement officer and government public affairs representative, my considered opinion is that Saunders' problems are self-inflicted.

How could anyone with the serious responsibility of protecting the public take seriously Saunders' query about how the clothing adolescents are wearing affects police officers? It's a waste of the valuable taxpayer-funded time of a public employee to respond to that kind of silliness.

Saunders needs to come down off his ego-inflated cloud. A good reporter would know how to get information without attempting to bully people in print, as Saunders has attempted.

A good reporter would not ask silly questions that would waste the time of people who have serious public business to carry out, or in this case, try to create news where there is none. A good editor would tell him that.

Robert Porreca
A big hat tip to Robert Porreca.

I left the following comment on the thread of Saunders’ column:

You were a cheerleader for the Duke hoax and DPD's libeling of the lacrosse players.

You supported Dep. Chief Hodge, who supervised the "investigation" for the Chief's job.

You threatened to go to city hall and slap people if the city settled with the students who were the targets of the frame-up attempt.

Do you think, Barry, the Chief might think his time is better spent with serious journalists?

John in Carolina


Anonymous said...

What did Saunders call the chief? I'm sure it was quite offensive.

So, reason one for talking to other people at the N&O.

Plus, Saunders is not a REPORTER he is a columnist. So is the police chief accountable to an opinion writer now?

Reason two.

Final reason: Barry and the N&O don't work for me, don't speak for me, and certainly aren't asking questions for me. Heck, I'm not even a subscriber anymore (after 20+ years).


PS - Final final thought: I've met the Chief and would love to have him as a next door neighbor. Barry, well, I haven't met him and hope to keep it that way.

Anonymous said...

My question is this, why does Barry Saunders think that the Chief of Police needs to make himself available 24-7 to him on his home phone. Does Saunders even consider that perhaps the Chief has a home life? Perhaps the Chief of Police is married with children(I don't know since I do not live in the Durham area) and he and his wife want to be able to have some quiet time with their children and get them to bed without the jarring of the home phone. (My guess is that the Chief probably has a cell phone that the DPD uses to call him on matters that need his attention).

People generally are treated in the manner in which they treat others. When journalists act as if they are next to God, they find that those mere mortals from whom they need information,exclusives, etc. are not quite so willing to avail themselves to be grilled as they might otherwise be if said journalists (and I use that word loosely) like Saunders acted a little more humble.

Anonymous said...

Great comment, John!
Wish you had sent it as a letter to the editor.

Anonymous said...

The good news is that the N&O circulation is diving like old chevy dropped in the lake. Eventually they will offer Saunders the buy out deal. The bad news is that Saunders will hold on to the bitter end since no one else in the world would pay him for his nasty act.
May the end come soon.

Anonymous said...

Saunders can always go work for Cash Michaels.

Michaels needs someone who can move faster and get the story.

He spends his time sitting around.

Anonymous said...

It's not too hard to figure out why Barry has "countless exes". Steve in New Mexico