The responsibility of the news is to tell me what happened. That is it. Tell me the undisputed facts as they are known at the time. If there are tidbits of interesting, but unverified, information that is to be shared, I want it to be crystal clear from my news source that those bits of information are just “reports”, not facts. I have very little tolerance for overtly biased news reporting.
That brings me to the recent video of the driver of a Range Rover who ran over a group of bikers. Let’s pause for a second here. That part I just wrote is fact. The driver did in fact run over a biker. What else is fact? A biker did in fact slow down in front of the Range Rover. What else is fact? After the Range Rover ran over the bikers, the bikers chased down the driver and smashed his window once they caught up to him. What else is fact? The driver sustained injuries from the fight with at least one biker. What other facts are there? The driver had his wife and small daughter in the car at the time of the incident. These are facts. However, when I come across the news reports of this story, I am inundated with a peculiar mix of myth, facts, and assumptions. A remix of sorts. Instead of bikers, the news has decided they are a bike “gang”. Usually large groups of bikers are called members of a bike club. How that became a bike “gang”, I don’t know. I missed that memo. (See: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50156207n). Meanwhile, they’ve done quite a lot to humanize the driver- I know that he’s a Columbia graduate, that he was out celebrating his second wedding anniversary on that lovely Sunday afternoon.
In an attempt to get viewers to cosign on the “gang” label, reports have conveniently mentioned that there has been “police involvement” at their activities in the past. What does that term even mean? “Police involvement”? That is so over broad and vague it’s basically pointless to mention. If I am pulled over by a cop for a broken tail-light or have a house party where the cops are called for loud music, well, that’s technically “police involvement”. So, are all the passengers in my vehicle or those attending my party now a gang? Sounds pretty ridiculous, doesn’t it? So what makes it ok to draw that same conclusion about the bikers? “Police involvement” at a few of their past events a gang does not make them. These biker rallies and events can often have the turnout the size of a small concert so police are usually present and “involved” just because of their size. So to label them a “gang” without more than a report of past “police involvement” is irresponsible news reporting for the sake of a sensationalizing the story. And might I add, “gang” is quite the use of racially coded language. But I’ll let you take that analysis further on your own time.
Then there is this word “terrorize” that news sources and other social media platforms have used to describe how the bikers interacted with the driver. Terrorize? Now, it’s fair to say that the driver “felt terrorized”, but if the bikers were not intending to “terrorize” him, then it is not fair or responsible to report that the bikers were intentionally trying to “terrorize” the driver. Prior to reporting that they were “terrorizing” the driver, had anyone interviewed the bikers to get their side of the story? Were they really “terrorizing” him or were they expressing their shock and upset that he hit their fellow biker (the one who slowed down in front of the SUV)? Is it possible that the driver immediately speeding up to flee from the scene of the crime and they, acting on impulse, surrounded the vehicle to make sure he didn’t?
There are too many unanswered questions and not to mention a whole part of the story we’re not getting because the video didn’t capture every moment. But within hours, the news had it all figured out: Criminal members of a biker gang engaged in biker gang activity and (risked their lives in order to) intentionally terrorize a (random big ass SUV that could easily kill them or at least seriously injure them all) vehicle (simply for kicks and giggles because, as we know, that is what all biker gangs do.)
We have a right to our personal opinion of the event and we can all agree it was a damn unfortunate event. But it is not the job of the news to spoon feed us an opinion. Report the news and give us the facts. Let us create our own remixed version of the story in the comments section and in the break room at work.