Posted at 3:54 PM on April 22, 2009
by Jeff Horwich
KMSP Fox 9 says the Edina police "erroneously" informed school officials that an unmarked KMSP child-cruising 2004 Ford Explorer would be on the streets of Edina between 2 and 4:30 pm Tuesday, asking children "for directions" to test their "Don't-Talk-To-Strangers" skillz.
If the planned story had been carried out as widely perceived, it's arguably an...ill-conceived journalistic concept. Parents, anyway, freaked out when the principal sent an email about the plans. (KMSP's news peg: There was an alleged abduction attempt in Edina last week.)
Just returned to my desk to find a statement from Edina police chief Mike Siitari. Here it is, verbatim:
The information we put out was accurate and was provided by KMSP 9 to us. Our deputy chief called to advise them after the initial call that this was not a good idea. And at no point did they tell us this was only a plan...The specific vehicle, times, and so forth, we got from them.
So whether it's poor communication, or an "about-face" by KMSP 9 after the email went out and the angry parents called in, I do not know. But we put out accurate information, we stand by our actions. We think we did the right thing in notifying the community especially after the previous incident.
Speaks for itself. I suppose now you need to choose who to believe: The police chief, or your local Fox affiliate. Truth-O-Meter SAYS....
How do I know? But it's a good case study for an improptu journalism ethics discussion. And as luck would have it, our discussion's been picked up by the illustrious Romenesko blog at the Poynter Institute.
The questions remain unanswered.
The reporter involved, Trish van Pilsim, hasn't shown much interest in our posts (shucks) but has taken things up with David Brauer over at MinnPost.
It's "principal," not "principle."
Corrected -- on principle. Thanks!
Did you hear what they said about MN post and your report on the the FM107.1 Kevyn Berger show. Trish was on, you should listen, you can listen after the face in the on demand area. Interesting. I though you'd called her. She claims no one contacted her to check up on things before they started posting.
Why do you even have a blog with this kind of overraction and poor intuition.
Obviously KMSP was going to do this story. They gave the police the time and vehicle information so that if any 911 calls came through the police would know about it ahead of time.
Once word got out, 1) the story was tainted. kids would know to either avoid the vehicle or might approach it when they wouldn't because they'd know it was a news crew doing a story and 2) parents got angry. Thus they pulled the story and tried to paint themselves in the best possible light.
Your questions answered.
Now the real reason parents are going to get angry over this is because they would be outted in the news as really bad parents who never taught their kids to talk to strangers.
But the whole situation is a complete contradiction. You teach your kids to be kind to strangers and don't be disrespectful. So running away from a stranger asking an innocent question like directions is completely the reverse of how they were raised.
The real story here would be to ask how you balance this out. You want your kids to be socialized and not afraid of their own shadow. You want to them to act respectfully to those around them, including those they don't know. At the same time you, as a parent, are afraid they'll be kidnapped and tell them to immediately distrust and run away from strangers no matter what.
So what do you do? Be kind to others? Don't trust strangers? What do you teach your kids to do?
This became part of the original story and a lesson for all communities: The outrage and the quick communication between the police, the school district and an informal network of Edina parents is the not only the reason the story was dropped by KMSP; it's also the reason the alleged abductor was apprehended in the first place. A parent got in her car and followed him as she called police. This also has a lot to do with the success of the Edina school district—involved parents.