“Amateur Hour” Editorializing is Beyond the Pale for Fox News Coverage of Ferguson Protests
By Ken K. Gourdin
Note: I recently sent the following to Fox News regarding Steve Harrigan’s on-air comment that the police response to one protester in Ferguson was “amateur hour.” I have not received a response.
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I have both studied and written extensively about law enforcement issues, offering both criticism and praise, respectively, when I think each is warranted. I received a Bachelor’s Degree with honors in Criminal Justice from Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, and have been certified as a paralegal (CP) by the National Association of Legal Assistants in Tulsa, Okla. My father spent an honorable 43-year career on the job, and I have held several law enforcement support positions myself. I watch Fox News programming extensively, and am normally not wont to criticize it. The remaining content of this letter should be read in light of that background.
I write regarding your comment to Shepard Smith during Fox News coverage of events in Ferguson, Mo., that police response to a particular protestor was “amateur hour” (your words). Apparently, you and some of your colleagues believe that a police decision to target a specific protester is based solely on what you can see; in my book, such a judgment constitutes faulty logic. Apparently, you, along with some of your colleagues, are proceeding on the assumption that you know everything you need to know to determine whether police action is justified on the micro level. I don’t doubt that you have impeccable sources; I don’t doubt that you, as any good reporter would, carefully note what they say. But it takes a special kind of hubris, at best, and is just plain foolhardy at worst, to assume that these facts alone qualify you to make such a judgment, and that you have as much information at your disposal as police have at theirs.
You, along with some your colleagues, seem to have judged the actions of police based on the apparent fact that there was perhaps a 10-to-1 or 20-to-1 ratio of police to protestors in the instance upon which you were commenting – editorializing, really; in case you’ve forgotten, that’s not what you’re paid to do, and that’s not why people watch you. Perhaps you don’t care about the fact that, overall, the ratio of protestors to police in Ferguson likely is dozens, or even hundreds, to one. Yes, perhaps the police response to protestors and others in Ferguson has left something to be desired in some (perhaps many) instances; no doubt, the protests (the riots, arguably) in Ferguson will be the subject of police training on effective response to civil unrest for years to come.
I don’t know: perhaps the two incidents are unrelated, or perhaps police response to the incident on which you editorialized actually led, at least in part, to the incidences of shooting that apparently occurred later in the evening. On the other hand, perhaps a firm police response to what you thought was a relatively innocuous incident actually lessened the seriousness of those incidents (serious though they were). I look forward to further analysis – emphasis on the word analysis – from Fox News regarding that issue.
While I laud you for your courage in being willing to put yourself in harm’s way in order to report – perhaps I should emphasize the word report – on what’s happening in Ferguson, no one forced you to take that assignment. And even a high-risk assignment doesn’t give you license to editorialize: if you wish to pass (ill-informed?) judgment on law enforcement, perhaps you should request a different assignment. If your employer, instead, wishes to make your further employment contingent on your acceptance of an assignment you feel is unacceptably dangerous, surely you’re qualified and capable enough to find suitable employment elsewhere. I wonder, should I now watch Fox News coverage with a more jaundiced eye?