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The Austin American-Statesman on Monday published a Politifact “fact check” declaring it “false” that they omitted a shooting suspect’s description “because he’s Black.”
The “fact check” was used to censor criticism of their paper on Instagram and Facebook.
As I noted in my report on their policy a little over a week ago, the Austin American-Statesman refused to release police’s description of an at-large black male mass shooting suspect in Austin because they said it “could be harmful in perpetuating stereotypes.”
Rather than address the actual issue, Politifact chose to go after a commentator for saying the Statesman didn’t print the suspect’s description “because he’s Black” and declared it “false” as that can’t be proved without knowing their newsroom’s internal discussions.
From Politifact’s report on Statesman.com:
Fact-check: Did a local report omit a suspect’s description ‘because he’s Black’?
By Ciara O’Rourke, PolitiFact.com
Published 10:33 a.m. CT Jun. 21, 2021Updated 10:34 a.m. CT Jun. 21, 2021
Viral post: “Austin mass shooter still at large, but media won’t provide description because he’s Black.”
PolitiFact’s ruling: False
Here’s why: Fifteen people were wounded and one was killed early in the morning of June 12 after a shooting in downtown Austin, Texas. No suspects were immediately arrested, and as the local newspaper reported on the developing story, it included a caveat.
“Police have only released a vague description of the suspect shooter as of Saturday morning,” the Austin American-Statesman said in an editor’s note on a story published around 6 a.m. on June 12. “The American-Statesman is not including the description as it is too vague at this time to be useful in identifying the shooter and such publication could be harmful in perpetuating stereotypes. If more detailed information is released, we will update our reporting.”
Two people have since been arrested, but a screenshot of that editor’s note is still being shared and mischaracterized on social media.
“Austin mass shooter still at large but media won’t provide description because he’s black,” a June 15 Instagram post says.
First, some news organizations did report the Austin Police Department’s suspect description, including his race. But the Austin American-Statesman’s reason for withholding it was not what was described in this post.
By June 14, two people had been arrested in the mass shooting, which killed a tourist from New York. Jeremiah Roshaun Leland James Tabb was charged with aggravated assault. A 15-year-old was also arrested and charged with deadly conduct. His name has not been released because he is a juvenile. Tabb, who is 17, is being charged as an adult under Texas law.
Austin police are not seeking any more suspects. But before the arrests, the department issued a press release that said they were looking for “one suspect described as a black male, with dread locks, wearing a black shirt and a skinny build.”
When police announced Tabb’s arrest two days later, the department described him as a “Black male.”
The Statesman refrained from using the police department’s suspect description not because Tabb is Black, but because it was not specific enough to apply to one individual. It’s common for news organizations to withhold such information when the description police provide is so vague that it could apply to a large group of people, regardless of race. https://api.banned.video/embed/60d0aa64dd4f561c16183334
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Do you think police’s description of the at-large “black male, with dread locks, wearing a black shirt and a skinny build” was accurate and would have been helpful at getting a killer off the streets?
The Associated Press Stylebook, a widely used guide for journalists, advises that news organizations should “consider carefully when deciding whether to identify people by race.” Race is pertinent “in cases where suspects or missing persons are being sought,” according to the stylebook, but only when “the descriptions provided are detailed and not solely racial.”
We rate this post False.
I rate this “fact check” as nothing more than a pathetic excuse to censor their critics.
I rate the Austin American-Statesman and Politifact as worthless propaganda organs that care more about advancing bulls**t narratives than reporting the truth.