COMMENTARY: It's Not Racial Profiling If It's Accurate Reporting

By David M. Kinchen
On the opening day of the Wisconsin State Fair -- Thursday, Aug. 4 -- there were confirmed reports of black youths rampaging and attacking whites for no reason -- confirmed by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and WTMJ-Channel 4, the NBC affiliated TV station owned by the company that owns the newspaper.

The attacks at the fairgrounds in the suburb of West Allis  were reported accurately and the newspaper printed a forceful editorial condemning the violence (see it at the end of this commentary), but many readers outside the West Allis-Milwaukee area where the fair is held wouldn't know it because for the most part the racial identification of the attackers was eliminated from the news reports (an exception was the Wisconsin State Journal from liberal Madison, which reported the incidents accurately ...link: http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/crime_and_courts/article_ad3f2f90-c02e-11e0-a37c-001cc4c03286.html), including this report from Reuters:

Heightened security at Wisconsin State Fair after violence

By John Rondy

MILWAUKEE | Fri Aug 5, 2011 2:54pm EDT

(Reuters) - Wisconsin State Fair officials announced heightened security on Friday, a day after fighting erupted on the fair midway and attacks on police officers resulted in multiple arrests.

"Certain individuals and groups of youths chose to disrupt the evening activities," Wisconsin State Fair CEO Rick Frenette said.

Fighting between groups of youths on the midway on Thursday night led to 24 arrests, and seven police officers were wounded, fair officials said. Most of the wounds to police were cuts and bruises, but two officers were hospitalized from blows to the head.

Starting on Friday at 5 p.m., youths under age 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian aged 21 or over, Frenette said.

Wisconsin State Police was working with State Fair police and police from West Allis, a suburb of Milwaukee, to ensure order, fair officials said.

They said the youths involved in the fighting appeared to be at the fair to hang out and cause trouble, rather than to go on rides and participate in other fair activities.

Witnesses interviewed on local television said the youths also targeted bystanders waiting in traffic or walking outside the park. Citing Milwaukee police, fair spokeswoman Patrice Harris said four people were hurt outside of the fair grounds. The fair runs until Aug. 14.

(Writing and reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Additional reporting by John Rondy; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)

 

* * * 
(Some newspapers from New York, the Daily News, for instance, reported the story accurately; the report I saw from the Chicago Tribune, less than 100 miles south of Milwaukee, omitted the race of the attackers.
Commenters to the Reuters story blasted the news service (and I use that phrase advisedly given the biases often displayed by Reuters) with one person, ericdondero, writing:

Is there some reason you are avoiding the initial reports from all the Milwaukee-area media that it was “Black Youths,” harrassing and attacking white fair-goers? Even Black leaders in Milwaukee are reporting this and condemning the Black-on-White violence that occured. So, you’re not going to be accused of being “racist,” in reporting a simple fact.

 
Another reader, ryankilg,  wrote:

This is terrible reporting. This is a prime example of how the media selectively reports news to fit their world view. So a company who’s job it is to inform the public clearly promotes ignorance to support their agenda. Disgusting.

* * * I have to agree; if white "youths" were rampaging, attacking blacks, I'm sure  racial identification would make a miraculous return.
Full Disclosure: I worked for The Milwaukee Sentinel, which merged with the Milwaukee Journal in the 1990s,  from October 1967 to February 1976 and I'm proud of my old paper for doing something that used to be standard operating procedure: accurate reporting.   The Associated Press (AP) story wasn't much better than the incomplete Reuters report (Paul Julius Reuter, 1816 – 1899,  a German Jew who moved to England and converted to Christianity, would not be proud of the news service that bears his name), hinting at the racial element (although some not familiar with Milwaukee might assume white "youths" were attacking blacks:
By COLIN FLY
Associated Press

WEST ALLIS, Wis. (AP) - Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn is calling attacks in and around Wisconsin State Fair Park "reprehensible" and says some people were targeted because of their race.

Dozens of young people started fighting inside the fair's popular Midway on Thursday evening and the violence spilled into the surrounding neighborhoods while overlapping police jurisdictions struggled to quickly react.

More than 30 arrests were made at the fair and 18 people were injured in or around the grounds. Some witnesses said black youths were targeting white fair-goers, though some black people were also attacked.

Some park police officers were also injured.

Wisconsin State Fair Park CEO Rick Frenette says police presence is being increased in response to the violence. Also, anyone under 18 must have a parent or legal guardian after 5 p.m.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP typically scrubs up stories so they can be used by anyone who subscribes to the service.
* * * Here's that editorial from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that I referred to at the beginning:
 

Editorial: Free from fear

The community must stand up to the violent thugs who terrorized State Fair Thursday night. This can't be allowed to happen again.

Aug. 5, 2011

Violent thugs can't be allowed to destroy the Wisconsin State Fair or any other social venue or event.

Those who terrorized innocent fair visitors Thursday night have to be found and punished. Security has to be beefed up. Families have to be free of fear.

This is our fair, a showcase and celebration of the state, and reports of African-American teenagers randomly beating up white fair-goers - similar to attacks last month in the Riverwest neighborhood - are shocking.

We simply can't let this happen again.

State Fair authorities are moving in the right direction with a parental escort policy, and Gov. Scott Walker was right to bring in the State Patrol to provide additional law enforcement help. Police of the three jurisdictions involved - State Fair, West Allis and Milwaukee - need to review their response and communications policies to ensure they're adequate.

But more than that, the violence that erupted needs to be addressed by community leaders, churches, parents, schools and government officials throughout the region. Several leaders started to step up Friday; more need to do so.

Race-related violence is a blight on the community no matter what form it takes or where it crops up. It requires attention and action at all levels of the community, from board rooms to living rooms.

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