[ed. note - according to recent news reports, America is ready to erupt into full scale political violence. The folowing awareness-raising repost from January 2008 is presented as a public service. And also because I'm lazy. Got any new tips on acts of violence perpetrated by journalists, elected officials or entertainment celebrities? Shoot me (figuratively) an email with the subject line 'media violence project.' The life you save could be your own!]
As Casualties Mount, Some Question The Emotional Stability of Media Vets
An Iowahawk Special Investigative Report
With Statistical Guidance from the New York Times
A Denver newspaper columnist is arrested for stalking a story subject. In Cincinnati, a television reporter is arrested on charges of child molestation. A North Carolina newspaper reporter is arrested for harassing a local woman. A drunken Chicago Sun-Times columnist and editorial board member is arrested for wife beating. A Baltimore newspaper editor is arrested for threatening neighbors with a shotgun. In Florida, one TV reporter is arrested for DUI, while another is charged with carrying a gun into a high school. A Philadelphia news anchorwoman goes on a violent drunken rampage, assaulting a police officer. In England, a newspaper columnist is arrested for killing her elderly aunt.
Unrelated incidents, or mounting evidence of that America's newsrooms have become a breeding ground for murderous, drunk, gun-wielding child molesters? Answers are elusive, but the ever-increasing toll of violent crimes committed by journalists has led some experts to warn that without programs for intensive mental health care, the nation faces a potential bloodbath at the hands of psychopathic media vets.
"These people could snap at any minute," says James Treacher of the Treacher Institute for Journalist Studies. "We need to get them the help and medication they need before it's too late."
Statistics of Shame
Accounts of media psychopathy, while widespread, have until now been largely anecdotal. In order to provide a more focused and systematic study of the crisis, Iowahawk researchers set out to identify and tabulate criminal arrests and convictions of current and former journalists. While by no means comprehensive, this 10-minute project yielded a grim picture of a once-proud profession now in the grips of tragic, drunk, violent, child-raping rage.
The stories cited in the opening paragraph, while instructive, are by no means isolated. Google searches return hundreds of crimes attributable to workers in America's media industry, and millions of pages containing the terms "journalist" and "murder." They are as shocking in their detail as they are in their number.
While some journalists' alleged offenses are limited to propery crimes and theft -- such as Redwood City (CA) radio reporter Joe McConnell and Former Detroit TV Reporter Suzanne Wangler -- often they take a darker turn, resulting in public endangerment. Current and former journalists seem particularly enthusiastic about driving the nation's highways and streets in drug and alcohol fueled stupors. Among the journalists arrested or charged with DUI offenses since 2000 include Salon and Guardian columnist Sidney Blumenthal, Chicago TV news anchor Walter Jacobson, Kansas City TV reporter Steve Shaw, Nashville newspaper columnist Brad Schmitt, Albuquerque Journal reporter Chris Vogel, Rocky Mountain News editor Holger Jesen, New York Post Columnist Richard Johnson, Idaho State Journal columnist Brady Slater, Tampa Tribune editor Janet Weaver, St. Petersburg Times reporter Eric Robert Gershman, and Lexington (KY) TV reporter Angelica St. John.
How many unsuspecting American motorists and pedestrians remain at risk from alcoholic media professionals is still a matter of scientific conjecture, but one thing is certain: journalists can be even more deadly outside their cars. Often the journalistic gateway to violent behavior begins with stalking and trespassing -- such as has been alleged of People magazine reporters Jeffrey Neal Weiss, and, in an unrelated incident, Don Sider. But sometimes, as in the case of MSNBC host Keith Olbermann, serial stalking behavior goes unpunished and the perpetrators go on to seek more serious thrill-crimes. Journalists recently charged with violent offenses include New York Times reporter and alleged batterer Michael Katz, British reporter Ben Stubbings, and St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Margaret Gillerman, charged with striking a police officer.
Often, the objects of journalist rage turn out to be the perpetrator's own family and loved ones. For example, in 2005 Chicago Sun-Times Columnist Neil Steinberg was charged with domestic violence for striking his wife in an alcoholic rage. But this tendency obeys no gender, as evidenced by domestic violence charges against female newspaper editor Rebekah Wade, and Tampa reporter Roxanne Evanina, charged with domestic battery for spraying bleach into her boyfriend's face.
But the Americans most vulnerable to attacks from media sociopaths are its smallest. A shocking number of journalism-related crimes involve child molestation, child pornography, and internet stalking of minors. Journalists recently charged with sickening crimes in this category include Arizona newspaper editor Lindsey Stockton, Arkansas radio reporter Charles "David" Ballard, New Orleans Times-Picayune reporter William Kalec, Washington DC TV weatherman Bill Kamal, and Noel Neff, former editor of the children's magazine Weekly Reader.
In recent times, the national journalist crime spree has taken an increasingly deadly turn. A typical case in point is former Savannah newspaper reporter Donald Lowery, charged with robbing a bank with a sawed-off shotgun. Sometimes arrests are made before bloodshed, such as in the case of Oak Ridge (TN) newspaper reporter and alleged murder plotter Michael Frazier, and former San Francisco AsianWeek columnist Kenneth Eng, arrested for threatening a Virginia Tech-style massacre at a New York University commencement. All too often, though, the warning signs come too late. Recent years witnessed several journalists arrested on murder charges, including longtime Hartford Courant reporter Gregory Robertson and Missouri radio host and reporter James Keown, charged with fatally poisoning his wife by spiking her Gatorade with antifreeze.
To help better understand the growing threat of journalist crime, the Iowahawk investigation team compiled the following statistical chart.
Roots of a Crisis
Despite of the ever-growing and bloody toll of victims of media-related crimes, some observers counsel against jumping to conclusions. Among the defenders is University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds.
"I think it's unfair to single out journalists as thieves, or violent, or drunks, or child abusers," says Reynolds. "Sometimes they're all of the above."
He cites the case of Kevin Lee Pettiford, a Knoxville journalist charged with abducting and threatening to kill three minor girls during a drunken high speed chase to an attempted bank robbery.
Others believe that the roots of media sociopathy are rooted in journalistic culture itself. Bob Owens, an analyst with the non-profit Media Violence Project, says the seeds of violence are planted early in the journalist's training.
"These idealistic kids show up at J-School, hoping to change the world and become the next Woodward and Bernstein or Edward R. Murrow," says Owens. "The next thing you know they're taking Comparative Lit under some tenured Po-Mo drill instructor, and they just totally snap."
Owen cites the well-known case of University of Florida college newspaper columnist Andrew "Don't Tase Me Bro" Meyer, as well as LSU Daily Reveille writers Donald Hodge and Mathew Sanders, charged in two separate unrelated incidents of disorderly behavior.
Making matters worse, those who make it through J-School boot camp often have psychic difficulty adjusting to life in the field.
"The working journalist patrols a world where up is down, black is white, and every gendered pronoun is a potential career killer," says Owens. "Everything, including reality itself, is secondary to the correct narrative. Honestly, it's a miracle we've kept the violence to the level it is."
Ominously, Owens warns that the current toll of victims is only the tip of the iceberg.
"With the current media industry economic quagmire, more and more of these people are being turned out in streets, with no discernible skills, especially rudimentary math," says Owens. "The only thing they know how to do is make stuff up, and they really can't even do that very well. It's like a big incompetent powder keg ready to go off."
Searching for a Cure
Long-time media observer Treacher sounds a similar alarm bell.
"Unless we do something quickly, America's editorial offices and news studios will become potential killing fields," says Treacher. "It's not enough that we treat media veterans with revulsion and contempt. They also deserve our pity."
Among the programs Treacher suggests are intensive anger management, drugs, psychotherapy, lobotomization, and "an anti-retard patch of some sort."
"Maybe they could spend some mandatory shifts at the Sudoku desk, to help them with math and reasoning skills," he adds.
Like Owens, Treacher believes there is a strong correlation between journalism and sociopathy, but he has his own theory.
"Actually, I think the effect is in the opposite direction," explains Treacher. "Journalism doesn't always cause stupid, but stupid sure causes journalism."