Response to the article was quick and harsh: this was victim blaming — as we've seen time and time again in cases of African American victims and white shooters, be they police or the George Zimmerman persuasion — except this was still somehow worse. What the hell did Rice's parents' criminal record have to do with his being shot 1.5 seconds after a police car pulled up to the recreation center, folks from around the world asked.
Reporter Brandon Blackwell eventually added an update to the story to attempt to answer that question. "People from across the region have been asking whether Rice grew up around violence. The Northeast Ohio Media Group investigated the backgrounds of the parents and found the mother and father both have violent pasts."
Some folks at NEOMG were on the public defense for Blackwell and whatever editor decided this garbage was worth publishing, including Mark Naymik, who tweeted: "Gives small window into this young boy's life. A frame of reference, perhaps for why he had toy gun?" Um, huh?
Others, however, not only saw the article for what it was, but chose to voice that opinion publicly. The following email was sent from a Plain Dealer employee to all PD and NEOMG staff. It relays the concerns as well or better than we or anyone else has, so we'll just let them take over:
This is shameful. And that update does not change that fact.
Is this really the type of news organization NEOMG wants to be known as?
Who are the "people from across the region" asking that question? More importantly, how is it relevant to Tamir Rice's death?
It isn't. It simply isn't. And adding a paragraph after-the-fact to try to justify your actions is borderline insulting.
Some in the region also have said race was a factor. So shall we scrutinize the officers' parents? Perhaps one of their parents belongs to the Klan. Maybe the officer who fired on Tamir was taught as a child to fear all black men. That might be why the officer was quick to fire, "some in the region" might wonder.
Do we all realize that the WORLD is watching this story unfold?? Not just our readers, not just "some in the region," and not just in North America. The WORLD is watching us. So again I ask, is this what NEOMG stands for?
I am not simply criticizing the reporter. Good journalism is achieved not just through years on the beat or getting clicks. A reporter becomes a good journalist through guidance from his or her editors, the example set by more-experienced peers, and most importantly, through the standards of the organization he or she works for.
So, along with scrutinizing this dead child's parents and the household he grew up in for 12 years, maybe the leaders of NEOMG should examine their own house and the quality of the journalism coming out of it.
Folks, we're better than this.