Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Fact and Fiction? Bias, Sensationalism, and Sources - Scrutiny of the Noah's Ark Fracas

Journalists can be distinguished from reporters. A journalist may provide all comments even the most questionable. A reporter arguably presents what is reasonably verifiable. The reporter is often a witness after the fact. A reporter offers the views of others willing to identify themselves. Journalists may incorporate innuendo, mask, or use questionable sources. Sometimes, reporter are encouraged by fate to become journalists on an event. Credibility of facts can be derived from those willing to accept or reject witnesses for what each is worth to a story. Gossip and journalism have similarities.
The ‘alleged’ 100 person melee on Howard seems like both gossip and journalism to me. Yet, Bud Ogle and Noah's Ark established a reasonable reputation in our community and his efforts were likely well intended. Working with disadvantaged youth and 'kids who have kids' is no picnic. Too many prefer to sidestep, to deport, or expect the sheriff to drop the offender off at the nearest turnpike. Few work with the challenge and overcome ignorance. However, the CTA worker and Mannis deserves credit for alerting Police and the community.

Chicago Police officials allegedly estimated the 'Noah's Ark crowd' at approximately forty teenagers. These estimates likely come from those who are ‘credible’ in estimating crowd control ‘at the time that police arrived.’ The Rogers Park Bench alleged that Friday’s Church dance party group exceeded one hundred. This arguably inflates the number of those who actually fought to exaggerate criticism of Bud Ogle.
I understand that some are upset with Ogle's decision to post Joe Moore's political signs. They also point to his staff's 'alleged' lack of hospitality to Ms. Wang. The implication is that the party kids were African American or Hispanic based upon the church that housed the event. The RP Bench article may inflame some readers. Maybe we should foster some understanding.

The RP Bench' reputable sources are unnamed John Q. Publics' and a CTA worker. This staffer is experienced or trained in the fine art of monitoring the entrance or transportation. However, he is ‘likely’ uneducated in crowd control and density estimation. It is unclear whether the observers were perched somewhere above or at street level. This creates a credibility gap. What exactly happened? Those who were there know the most, but no one has reasonably investigated other than Police, perhaps.

The Witnesses: A CTA Maintenance Worker v. Chicago Police

I have spoken with Howard Street Terminal workers over the years. Police are more reserved and not as chummy on the job. They are paid to take control, remain skeptical, and cannot afford an acquaintance who questions their authority. 'Heat of passion' is the number one cause of domestic and public violence. Let's 'cool our jets' for a moment.

When challenged, one biased and exaggerating CTA worker admitted ignorance about our community. He recognized that he no longer lived in Chicago. I do and so do many of us! Credibility is higher when you have an education, skin tone is paler, or your deeds are actually in the neighborhood. Some of us have earned the right to speak. Another great CTA conversationalist was a second generation Pole; look, I am a fourth generation Pole, among other things. Don't get me wrong, these are nice guys, great conversationalists, and journalists, but they refuse to contrast our dense population with events.

CTA subcontractors and maintenance workers are also around quite a diverse crowd. Some live in Evanston and Wilmette en route to the Loop. Some of the ridership prefers to live in more affluent and manicured existences with less diversity and fewer resources. What about their overall bias, credibility and veracity as depicted in the RP Bench?

Well, at least one CTA worker admitted to moving out. There is pride in the fact that this ‘gentleman John,’ as I call him, does not live in Chicago. This badge of success came out in our conversation. When I asked how much time he actually spent on the platform, then I learned that he moves around quite a bit and is not regularly perched off Paulina and Howard.

If more officers are needed in the 24th District, then Police are going to properly estimate. They must contain and control. This means you get squad cars out, quickly! Frankly, 15 to 20 squad cars are significant. I just don’t see that RP Bench CTA worker counting the squad cars from his location, let alone, viewing all from a non-descript vantage point. I don’t know that thirty 24th District squad cars are available given Craig’s 24th District estimate. Perhaps the Evanston PD joined in at the rumpus. Remember, this is a journal, not a report. Give it whatever weight you want!

Conclusions Drawn?

We are given numerous crowd estimates of the Noah's Ark Social Event; the uneducated CTA worker estimated 250% more than the Chicago Police. I just don’t believe, based upon living in Chicago since 1983, that forty or more kids were simultaneously fighting with each other. However, I was not there. I realize that the higher estimates will please Moore's detractors. However, I am not much of a Moore fan, either, these days, even if the guy once meant well. He reminds me of Eisendrath only Moore overstayed and Eisendrath recognized that the writing was on the wall and gave up on incumbency.

Some claim that the first near the scene are the most believable. How believable and for what purpose? After any dance, a crowd forms when the party ends. This crowd will likely contain both guys and dolls. Look, guys don’t dance with each other at many church functions!

Most teens will stand, observe, and hope to hang out just a little bit longer. A few may try to break up or silence those teens with too much testosterone flowing. Some probably wanted to leave with a member of the opposite sex. However, if these were church girls, then they were meant to entice better behavior, not machismo.

Bud Ogle's and his Good News Church tried to create a non-alcoholic safe social event. Noah's Ark seems to have run short on experienced chaperones. Police could have been dispatched to better monitor the end of the party. Ogle should find more chaperons or security; otherwise, Noah's Ark should not host the parties. Frankly, Ogle needs a good insurance policy, as well, but needs to better communicate with his neighbors.

Decisions on whom and when to arrest must be made in the best interests of the community. Sometimes, Police must use discretion. Sometimes, unreasonable provocation and response promotes a riot like the legendary 1966 PR Riot. Some are not charged for a variety of good faith reasons. The decision not to arrest happens in both Chicago and our suburbs to the angst and chagrin of conceivably well-meaning community members. Does anyone recall the Glenbrook North High School hazying video and controversy?
Most violence is ignited by ignorance and the heat of passion. More can be done than just belly aching. Defusing violence takes foresight, not hindsight.


SouthEvanstonian said...

"I just don’t believe, based upon living in Chicago since 1983, that forty or more kids were simultaneously fighting with each other."

Are you kidding me? You must not live in Rogers Park (or if you do, you live in the "right" part of RP). Unfortunately, I have seen groups of kids closer to 100 involved in melee activities. Usually there is a fight or two at the center of a very large, inflamed crowd, with shouting, shoving, and other activities going on around the central action. The result is CHAOS.

I don't know anything about Noah's Ark or its involvement in large parties for kids. What I do know, and have seen with my own eyes, is that large groups of teens and young adults are wandering around North of Howard, beat 2424 in RP, and south Evanston causing A LOT of trouble. By my count, there have been at least 6 shootings (one fatal) and a stabbing within the past few weeks. Neighborhood watch groups on both sides of the Evanston/Chicago border have received information about gang turf wars. The things that are happening out there are NOT GOOD, and amount to a whole lot more than a bunch of "guys" and "dolls" just hanging out after a church dance.

I hope in the future you choose to use your investigative talents and venue to draw attention to the problems this area is facing, not to act as an apologist for anti-social, violent, and often criminal behavior.

lafew said...

Most of the time, this is not happening or I guess that I am just not around. In addition, I guess that I live in a good neighborhood, but there are many. Yet I walk west on Rogers to Ridge by Potawattomie every once in a while. I also treat my neighbors with respect with the hope that they might improve their manners. Some of us are examples and others of us want to make examples out of others.

Yes, there are probably groups of kids. A hundred may be a bit of an abberation, but twenty to fifty is more likely. I just listened to a scan of a group of 20 white kids at 1800 W. Winnemac, one of who allegedly had a gun.

That is in the field by Amundsen High School in what is becoming West Andersonville, part of the 40th Ward, and was once known as Bowmanville.

I just don't get into the Temperance Union type Tent Masses to disarm the public or rail against the evils of gangs. I hope for more positive and affirmative moves like positive loitering.