Victim Language

What amounted to the package of reporting on the shooting death of Gregory Douglas is woefully lacking in holistic reporting.

May 6, 2015 at 10:52 am

There’s been a lot of electronic brouhaha after Enquirer reporter Emilie Eaton — who looks to be about 30 seconds out of college — published her first-person report about the shooting death of 30-year-old Gregory Douglas on Vine Street last week in broad daylight.

She has either been flayed for the “why me?” tone of her report or, in the case of John Faherty, her co-worker and a professional acquaintance of mine who wrote a profile of me awhile back, she has been defended in that way that only paternalistic whites can do when a white damsel is in distress.

And Eaton most certainly was in distress.

She not only witnessed the violent shooting of a man — somebody’s son, perhaps someone’s father and brother — on a city street, she was close enough to see his assailant, whom police quickly identified as Darnell Higgins, jump into his car and flee the scene.

Eaton vividly describes flattening herself in a nearby doorway and hoping to God the shooter did not see her and wasn’t coming to shoot her, too.

“Did the shooter see me? Will he try to shoot me? I want to call my mom.”

That she hung around helping cops with their investigation and then high-tailed it back to the newsroom to settle her nerves and pound out a first-person report exceeds professionalism because Eaton undoubtedly will feel the slow creep of post-traumatic stress disorder sooner or later and she should get herself to a therapist.

What hangs in my craw about The Enquirer’s reporting tactics actually has nothing whatsoever to do with Eaton.

I have been a daily reporter and the things “editors” (quotation marks for ironic effect) ask reporters to do, on top of the back-handed little things those same editors do to reporters’ work, do nothing but make the reporter appear inept and stupid and give the paper a worse name in the community than it already has.

Before changing it after online thumb thugs took them to task, Enquirer editors first used the word “dead” in its breaking headline — not to describe the victim Gregory Douglas; rather, to play on the fact the shooting death of a human being had brought the “spring morning to a dead stop.”

That is callous and sensational.

Add to the fact that the Vine Street corridor so lovingly renamed Gateway Quarter has been erected on the death grounds of so many fatally wounded black men — some, like Timothy Thomas, at the hands of police — and now made so fresh and so clean, clean with bars, restaurants, cheeky walking tours, the promise of light rail for tourists and a pending state-mandated “entertainment district” that will allow revelers to carry alcoholic beverages from one establishment to the next before stumbling to their cars to drive home, and the antics of some daily “editors” seems a trifling bit of stupidity and short-sightedness.

Keep in mind: The Enquirer does not have editors, per se.

The paper utilizes something akin to advisors who confer with reporters, asking them what angle the reporter thinks her story will take and then suggesting viewpoints that should be included in that story.

So, when Eaton filed her first-person account, there probably wasn’t an editor across the room pushing back, asking her exactly how close the shooter was to her when she was hiding or if he really could see her or even how far was the shooting from where she initially stood, all questions that aren’t answered in any specific manner in Eaton’s story.

That push back, those questions — the hard math of reporting — is what makes a good, eventually seasoned reporter, though the questions feel terse and wholly unnecessary when they’re being asked in the emotional heat of the moment.

This hole shows me that The Enquirer is so far askew from its responsibilities of reporting that publishers, “editorial advisors” and, now, even reporters, have talked themselves into believing they can do whatever they want while disseminating information and, after, just hold their collective breath through public blow back and it will all subside until the next time the paper gets a chance to get it right but gets it dead wrong.

And I meant the use of that dead without the slightest bit of irony or stupidity.

What amounted to the package of reporting on the shooting death of Gregory Douglas is woefully lacking in holistic reporting.

Screw the manager of the establishment who said the whole thing would be forgotten by lunch. Where were the voices of the long-time Over-the-Rhine residents, many of whom have been pushed back to the few tenements still standing on Republic Street? Who was Gregory Douglas? Who knew him? Where does his family live? Isn’t he still the victim, after all? Even if he was involved in foul play with Darnell Higgins, I bet Douglas wasn’t always running down a public street for his life.

Given all that, where was the second-day story?

It goes down like this: The Enquirer cannot have it both ways. It cannot be the official paper of record for white fear-mongering and wedge-driven classism across Hamilton County and be bad at it.

However, because this is and has been for awhile now a one-daily paper kind of town, we — no — you all have let The Enquirer get away with this type of work by buying it (yikes!), clicking on it and thereby racking up its online traffic numbers.

This is a paper that was so slow to shore up its online content that, by damned, near the middle of the digital age when what remained of all American dailies had firmly staked claims on online content, The Enquirer busied itself with launching the clunkiest, junkiest website that immediately charged premiums for fairly recent content.

The New York Times doesn’t even do that.

Full disclosure: I have twice been courted by editors at The Enquirer to be a columnist. The first time the great Laura Pulfer began the dance before her retirement, asking if I might like to be her replacement. I was just attracting my own gaggle of readers in this paper during my first incarnation as this paper’s columnist so it was during my second lunch with Pulfer that I said: “The Enquirer would hire me then quickly fire me for the same reasons it hired me.”

I’d by then been around long enough to know how editors operate, and this was back when that paper had editors.

I had no interest in being yet another of the paper’s victims, though it would temporarily make for good copy. 

CONTACT KATHY Y. WILSON: [email protected]