The same newspaper that publishes a monthly gallery of mug shots for the opportunity to exploit human misery for a few web click dollars offered up its unique take of the news that Barry Beach will not be charged in a case unrelated to his murder conviction. The story, which follows July news that the Yellowstone County Attorney would not be pursuing charges was deemed so important by the editorial team at the IR that it merited not one headline, but a headline and flashing red banner, each with its own lurid slant on the story.
From the IR web page tonight:
Given the coverage of the allegations against Mr. Beach, it’s certainly appropriate for the IR and other outlets to report that he will not face charges, but the language of these headlines is entirely inappropriate and inflammatory. “Convicted murderer given clemency” has a certain editorial slant that is hardly better in the headline lower down on the page.
While the story itself is an AP piece, there are some questions about the reporting, too. This is an especially sloppy piece of writing:
Beach was accused of picking up the girl in his vehicle after she ran away from a center for troubled youth. He asked her to touch him and if he could touch her. The girl told him no, and Beach later dropped the girl off about a half-block from her house, according to a police report based on the complaint.
There are one or two places where the word accused should have appeared in that paragraph, I’d say.
And consider this passage:
Beach was convicted of murder in 1983 when he was 17 and sentenced to 100 years prison with no possibility of parole for the beating death of 17-year-old Kimberly Nees. He long denied killing the girl, and hundreds supported his push for freedom, including Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester and former Gov. Brian Schweitzer.
It’s a strange choice to inject partisanship into the names of those who supported a new trial for Mr. Beach, and especially when the line in the original AP piece also included Republican Senator Conrad Brown. If you’re going to lift a line directly from your own story, you might as well include it all, and prominent Republicans like Bob Brown also supported the movement to free Mr. Beach.
It’s bad enough to sensationalize coverage. It’s worse to unnecessarily interject politics.
Newspapers certainly have to cover ugly, awful stories. It’s just a bit unseemly when they’re promoted in a way that suggests telling those uncomfortable stories truthfully is less important than generating clickbait.