In my weekly column this week I talk about how news derived locally is usually better than national news, which is a lot of talking heads doing commentary and news analysis, which looks and sounds like news, but isn’t.
We should all practice common sense discernment. My practiced method is to seek out local news outlets then balance what I read or watch with what an old Sunday school teacher of mine called our gut-feeling index. Or like my grandfather used to say, “Believe half of what you read and very little of what you see on TV.”
As an addendum, I’d like to talk about Jasper, Texas, for a minute. For a few months in 2000, I lived in Texas. I worked for a brief time as a security guard at the housing projects where James Byrd Jr. had lived until his 1998 murder.
I learned a few things about the people involved and the city itself that never received much, if any, play in the national media.
I am not trying to mitigate the actions of the three white men who brutally killed Byrd, a 49-year-old black man, by dragging him behind a pickup truck until his head came off his body. The crime is horrendous and totally lacking in justification.
One of three men involved has already been executed. The other is on death row and the third is serving a life sentence.
My point is that there were relative facts that didn’t fit the national news narrative so those facts were mostly left out of national news reports.
First, the crime wasn’t random as it was reported to be. This wasn’t a case of white racists riding around looking for a black man to kill.
One of the killers, Shawn Allen Berry, who is eligible for parole in 2038, knew Byrd. A security guard I worked with at the Jasper projects said Berry picked Byrd up at the projects all the time and would give him rides to get cigarettes and such. The night Byrd died, a witness saw him sitting in the back of Berry’s pickup truck alone while Berry was inside a gas station. Byrd had plenty of time to jump out and run if he felt threatened.
Also, the town of Jasper was portrayed in the national news as a hillbilly haven with mean white folk and a disenfranchised black population. The truth is that at the time of Byrd’s death, Jasper was 45 percent black, two of the town’s 15 cops were black and the town had a black mayor, R.C. Horn.
Below is a photo of Jasper County Sheriff’s Capt. James Carter who accompanied the white sheriff to tell Byrd’s family about his horrible death:
Jasper was not an all-white, good-old-boys-club town. One of the first actions taken by the white sheriff when Byrd’s mutilated body was found was to call in the FBI.
For any white supremacists who have found this post, please do not read into anything I wrote that I agree with or support anything you. Racism disgusts me.
Read my 2008 post on that in which I tell the KKK to kkkiss my ass.
I do believe in fair, honest reporting though. I don’t think facts should be left out because they don’t fit neatly into a story – only lies are neat, the truth is messy.
Two other Daily News columnists wrote about the Trayvon Martin case this week. My boss, City Editor Timmi Toler asks why other recent homicides weren’t getting the same attention and Mike McHugh ponders whether the case has been exploited.