“In 2003, a murder for hire case stemming from a neighbors’ dispute in Lake of the Pines shocked the entire county,” as The Union is reporting this weekend.
The “Fear Thy Neighbor” episode — a western Nevada County property rights dispute — airs on a television network called Investigation Discovery, featuring documentary-style programming dealing with true crime subjects, including criminal investigations (primarily homicides). About 84,289,000 American households (73% of households with television) receive Investigation Discovery, according to this report.
I went and found the video clip: “An elite California Lakeside Community is rocked to its core when two well-to-do gentlemen go to war over an 18-inch property line discrepancy. One neighbor takes the dispute to new levels when he hires a hitman to permanently solve the problem.”
You can watch it here. Click on “two-minute preview.”
But it’s not just the Investigation Discovery network — it’s our own local media.
Mug shots on parade
Also this morning, Charles Durrett of McCamant & Durrett Architects, The Cohousing Company, makes a point that I hear more often about our local media: It is too obsessed with crime reporting.
In “Enough Policing, Crime Coverage,” Durrett writes: “A bloated, sometimes idling police force, combined with sometimes idling teenagers, always seems to equal a run-in of one type or another.
“And The Union makes matters worse — much worse — by putting peoples’ mug shots on the front page. They rely too much on police reports for their copy and should see a bigger role in our community than that.”
As a lifelong journalist, I know “the cop shop” is important. On the other hand, it is largely reactive reporting and often lacks needed context or in-depth reporting. When I read TheUnion.com online, I’m often surprised at the lineup of mugshots in the “slideshow” promoted on the front. It lacks context.
The media needs to think more seriously about whether it is accurately reflecting the activities in our community. It needs to “dig deeper.”
To be sure, community members also need to share responsibility, with a “murder for hire” case being the most extreme.
Other examples include racially charged emails from the fire district, aired on Sacramento CBS 13, or the “Negro Creek” episode, discussed in the L.A. Times in “Nevada County’s tale of two ‘N-words.'”
The extremist politics in our community also fuels how we are perceived. Nowadays it comes from the hard right — a vocal but active minority.
I was concerned to see tea party activists encouraging their members to pressure the local media to publish their views in letters to the editor as a political strategy. A little goes a long way, yet I heard Stan Meckler state: “You’ve got to kick them sometimes, but they will publish it.” How disrespectful and manipulative.
The unintended consequences of many individual actions can impact our economic development: whether businesses want to move here, whether people want to visit and whether families want to move here.
We are a declining, aging population and our community leaders — civic, business and “electeds” —need to get a better grip on how our community is perceived.