Thursday, March 31, 2011

Patch me through

According to all the prophets and prognosticators, the news source of the future will be online forms such as Patch, which is an AOL product.  Newspapers, six o'clock newscasts on tv, Newsweek magazine...all of these are seen as fading vestiges of another era.  I hope this is not so, and I see newspapers trying to make the change to remain important to their readers - important enough to keep them subscribing.  And papers are putting their product online too.

I can't say it often enough - it's ALL good when it comes to reading the news or hearing the news or seeing the news. I love my local Patch and it gives me news and announcements that I wasn't seeing elsewhere.  From the news about a big fire to the news about a bake sale, it's there,  and I love it.  And it helps us all learn the local news. We need more people who know what's going on, trust me.

One of the interesting facets of Patch, if you'll click on the word, is that the articles are often followed up with reader fora, so that everyone gets to weigh in on it.  And while I stand tall for a free press and everything else, well, tell you what.  Read the article about the local police officer and police union president (full disclosure: I know the man and respect him and consider him a friend) who is being investigated by his own agency.  The facts are that there was some sort of confrontation when Sgt. Cole Weston came home and saw a man handing money to a man in a parked car.  His training and experience told him to check the situation, so he did, and then the guy with the money ran off, and the driver of the car - which turned out to be one of those sedan service vehicles that function as taxis - claims that the policeman slugged him and/or pointed his gun at him...and already, we're into "he said/he said/he said" territory here.  All we know for sure, all that all three men are consistent upon, is that there was a confrontation that got a little heated.  You can read it all on the Patch account of the fracas.

But what concerns me a little bit is the reader forum that follows.  Man oh man, people who weren't even awake that night at midnight, let alone within 20 miles of this street, all write that they know what happened.  Some know for sure that the officer handled it all wrong, and others are just as certain, as they sit in their sunroom on a sunny Sunday several days later, that he was right.  Some people are saying, you could look up the victims on the Maryland Judiciary Case Search and see that they have been defendants in the past.  One thing I do know for sure is that it is very easy to make a claim that a police officer mistreated you, because the police department is sure as heck going to check it out.  It's the only way that they can maintain their integrity as part of the community.  The police have to take all such claims at face value and go from there.  My first question would be, if the officer identified himself and asked what you were up to, why would you not just answer the question, if you have nothing to hide?  I have long made it a blanket policy that anyone can come up to me and ask what I am up to, and get an honest answer.  I certainly have nothing to hide.

But my point - here it comes - is this. Yes, I believe in the free and open exchange as typified here in the Patch.  But there are some people who will see this and then say, "Well it said in the Patch that _______ (insert conclusion) so there you go!" This has been a problem since the early days of the Rush Limbaugh show, when he would sit there sucking a stogie and say, "Mmnump, mnunmp, mnunmp, you KNOW that Vince Carter had to be rubbed out because Clinton found out about him and Hillary! Right, Mr Snerdley?"  And then, Jim Bob from Waxahatchie would call and offer a "megadittoes," and you had people believing in a myth, a fabrication, a prevarication.

And what does all this prove? It proves nothing. I want to hear that Sgt. Weston was in the right, and I think it will mean a lot to him that people hear the whole story and THEN find in his favor. I know it would be more meaningful to me to have people on my side because the facts tell them to, rather than just sticking up for me because of friendship.  Meanwhile, we don't know what happened that night, although many people are writing as if they do.  Only three people do, and they will tell their story to the proper authorities.  Before anyone decides anything, let's let them hear everything.

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