Thursday, March 31, 2005

# Posted 1:11 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A HEARTFELT RESPONSE: On Monday, I suggested that the WaPo's glowing profile of Sgt. Brett Parson demonstrated a surprising lack of interest in numerous complaints that Sgt. Parson has used excessive force in the line of duty. In response to that suggestion, I received the following response from Chris Grasso, Sgt. Parson's boyfriend (it is reprinted with Mr. Grasso's permission):
Oxblog writes:
But what are we supposed to think of someone who admits to a reporter from a nationally renowned paper that he pushes the limits of acceptable behavior? And what are supposed to think of a reporter who doesn't find that newsworthy?
The answer to the first question: think what you'd like. Newspapers report facts, which they did here; if you decide on the balance of the facts reported by the Post, both positive and negative, that Sgt. Parson is a bad guy, that is your conclusion to draw. The statement that the reporter didn't deem this issue newsworthy is patently false. The reporter explicitly deemed the fact newsworthy: she put it in her story. Oxblog wouldn't have even known of the fact if she hadn't. The reporter gave readers the information they needed to draw their own conclusions. Did she spend the exact amount of column inches on the issue as you would have if you'd been the reporter? Perhaps not; that is the judgment every writer and editor has to make when putting together a piece. But she drew no conclusions herself; she gave the assessment of the chief of police, not her own. If you "presume" the behavior in question is okay, that's your presumption, by definition, not the Post's.

I'm Parson's boyfriend, so I'm obviously biased in his favor. But the fact that a reader of the piece could disagree shows that the reporter did her job.
I wrote Mr. Grasso the following message in response:
Dear Chris,

Thanks for writing. Your name rang a bell but I just couldn't place it until you mentioned you were Sgt. Parson's boyfriend. First of all, let me point you to my statement that "the [WaPo] article will convince you that Sgt. Parson is an extremely talented public servant who [has] done tremendous things for the citizens of our nation's capital."

I stand by that 100%. I don't want to leave the impression that I was trying to reduce Sgt. Parson to a two-dimensional caricature.

With regards to the issue of excessive force, first, let me offer to print your message in its entirely on OxBlog. Normally, I presume that all messages sent to the editor are on the record. However, since you have a personal connection to this article, I didn't not want to assume that you were speaking to the general public.

With regards to being "newsworthy", perhaps my choice of words in that final sentence was poor. Let me point you to my the sentence from my post where I ask, "What happened to journalists looking for both sides of the story[?]" If Ms. Hull didn't look for the other side of the story, then she did not provide readers with the information we need to draw our own conclusions. Reporting what is on the public record in Sgt. Parson's file is simply not enough. If Ms. Hull didn't think that the numerous complaints in that file merited further, independent, investigation on her part, then she didn't treat the issue of excessive use of force as SUFFICIENTLY newsworthy.

I find that judgement extremely questionable in light of the extensive efforts that journalists generally make to ensure that the alleged victims of police brutality have as great an opportunity as possible to share their views. In other words, I am saying that there is a double standard. Why does such a double standard exist? I can only respond with speculation. Perhaps Ms. Hull was so enamored by all of the good work that Sgt. Parson does that she gave him an easy pass on the use of force issue. Or perhaps Sgt. Parson represents a political agenda to which Ms. Hull subscribes and therefore she was less inclined to emphasize his shortcomings.

Once again, I appreciate your taking the time to write in with your thoughts on my work.

Mr. Grasso sent a brief reply to this message and I sent an even briefer one back. I will spare you the details since I believe that we have both elaborated our arguments to the point where one can evaluate their merits.
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