Friday, June 26, 2015

I Can't Imagine

I've watched off and on as admitted cop killer Jamie Hood represents himself in his trial (livestream available here, when court is in session). Right now, Hood is cross examining a police officer and it hit me -- I cannot imagine what it's like to be cross examined by the guy who admits he shot to death a fellow officer. It must be very hard for these folks, but so far the one or two I've seen have been very professional on the stand.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Painful To Watch

If you live in the Athens, Ga., area, you can't help but know admitted cop-killer Jamie Hood is on trial and he's representing himself. It's a circus. I'm watching it via streaming and Hood made an objection and the judge, clearly already tired and it's not even lunchtime, excused the jury so they could argue a minor point about a witness list. The witness was on the list, but Hood thought it wasn't. But it was. In alphabetical order. Sigh.

If you're interested, the trial is available via streaming here.

As a former reporter, I've covered a lot of trials. Lemme just point out that's it's sausage making at its worst. Not a bit like what you see in the movies or on TV. Slow, ponderous, legalistic (as you'd expect), and a challenge if you're a reporter to stay focused for key moments. I've already heard a couple today in the opening statements, stuff I'd quote in a story.

Having a defendant represent himself is, truly, a circus.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Economists Look at Fox

Rarely would I read something published in the Journal of Public Economics. Just not my thing. But the June 2015 issue includes a study of political knowledge and Fox News. Maybe you can see the study, maybe not. I see it because I'm on my office computer and academic journals recognize the IP, thus granting me me complete access. Your mileage may differ.

First, a few key points about the study:
  • It didn't cite me, and I've published a couple of things on Fox and political knowledge. We all agree that's an academic death sentence.
  • The reference list is odd, if you happen to be steeped in research in political knowledge and, especially, media effects. By odd, I mean limited. Parochial. Narrow. Hell, it cites The Hollywood Reporter. There are a few solid political science cites, so that's something.
  • Like most economic papers, it attempts to baffle you with methodological bullshit. A lot of analyses are tossed your way. That said, this study cobbles together some interesting data far beyond the usual collection of national surveys, though at its heart it does rely on the Annenberg surveys for its political knowledge questions. Still, some sophisticated stuff here.
What's the takeaway? Fox matters, and not in surprising ways. Watching Fox has Republican effects. This is comforting in that it's nice to know not just masscomm dares research the obvious. Also: "This evidence generally suggests that Fox News influenced knowledge in a partisan way." Again, lots of studies have shown this (not cited here, unfortunately).

I suppose it doesn't exist until an economist finds it.

Monday, June 22, 2015

UGA Police PR

I saw this below at the bottom of a recent UGA cop story in the local paper:
UGA police were unable to comment due to a university policy change this year that directs questions concerning all police matters to the Office of Public Affairs.
and it got me wondering, huh? When did this happen? I found it especially interesting as the University of Alabama student paper had written last semester a story praising how UGA journalists could speak directly to the cops instead of going through the university PR office, which slows everything up. Ironic, eh? So of course I asked. Below is the email response I just received from Tom Jackson, VP (for a while, not sure when his new gig starts) of Public Affairs at UGA:
To answer your question -- in early April an institutional decision was made to assign a public affairs officer for the police department. This was done because Chief Williamson was handling media inquiries directly, and was being swamped with media inquiries, multiple inquires per day.  Public Affairs already handles media inquiries for much of the university and we’re in the same building with the police department.  Most of the information requested from police by media is readily available in the original incident reports and does not necessitate a phone call to the police chief.  If those reports do not supply sufficient information, further inquiries may be directed to Bob Taylor in my office, who will attempt to get any further releasable information for the reporter.  This is what public affairs offices do, and it will free Jimmy for more time to do what he is supposed to be doing, and that is directing the police department.
So there ya have it. Oh, I asked if there were any memos or reports justifying or explaining the decision, but was told there "are no responsive documents" to my request.The difference above to how Bama appears to do it is UGA seems to have someone devoted specifically to cop stuff. Whether that slows down getting news out there quickly -- vital on cop stories -- remains to be seen. As a former cop reporter myself, the last thing you want is another layer of bureaucracy, especially on public safety stories. I'll give it this Fall Semester to see how it works.

UGA and Google Trends

So, playing with Google Trends, I decided to check out University of Georgia as a search term. You can see a graphic display below.

As you can see, it's gone down. Don't feel too bad, UGA folks, I looked at University of Florida as a search term and it shows the same trend.

What's fun, if you go to the live graphic linked above, is to see when interest in UGA bumped up. Needless to say, most of those bumps are September -- which can be a football effect, or a starting school effect. Or both. The ones with letters, those are based on news events and stories that no doubt generated some traffic as well. "G," for example, is when former UGA prez Michael Adams called for a football playoff system. "E" is when a nationally known faculty member died.

Friday, June 19, 2015


And so I'm reading a story about UGA cops busting a gambling operation on campus and at the end of the story I see this graf
UGA police were unable to comment due to a university policy change this year that directs questions concerning all police matters to the Office of Public Affairs.
and I think, what the fuck?

I think this because, ironically, I'd recently seen a story by the Alabama student newspaper praising UGA and how the UGA cops could speak directly to journalists instead of, like at Bama, going through the PR wing of the university -- which drastically slows up the news process plus, let's face it, puts a flak spin on everything.

I'm actually gonna ask about this policy and when (and why) it went into effect. Will report back if and when I get an actual response.

Judge Softens Gag Order, Still Doesn't Get It

Turns out the judge in the Athens-Clarke cop-killer has eased the gag order he issued earlier that caused all kinds of excitement, attention -- and valid criticism.

After all, the order was clearly unconstitutional, something you'd expect a judge to kinda get because, ya know, law school. At the bottom you'll see the graphs from the original OnlineAthens story that was ordered taken down by the judge. Yes, I'll run 'em, because that's what I do.

The judge, H. Patrick Haggard (pic above), still doesn't get it. According to the latest Athens Banner-Herald/OnlineAthens story:
The amended order he issued Wednesday restricts only the publication of information that could identify potential jurors, responses made by potential jurors during the selection process, and issues raised by the prosecution and defense which “may relate to juror responses.”
Sorry, that's still prior restraint. If potential jurors are saying it in a public courtroom, it's in the public domain and definitely in the public interest. Period.

The judge may have avoided the embarrassment of being told by another court to straighten up and fly constitutionally right. Maybe. It depends on whether the ABH is willing to spent the bucks challenging the existing, eased gag order. In fairness to the judge, his interest is less on the First Amendment and more on the Sixth Amendment and ensuring a fair trial for an admitted cop killer. That said, the law is fairly straightforward here, and he's on the wrong side. I get his concern, he's just overreached. And to be honest, Elbert County was a crappy choice for jurors in the first place. A year ago I wrote this and even recommended Hall County as a better choice, given the demographics, plus years ago an infamous local trial was moved there in a change of venue, that of the Five Points Rapist. Sigh, no one listens to me.

By the way, where are the other local or Atlanta media in this fight? Eh? Get in the ballgame, folks.

Section That Pissed Off Judge
The DA’s motion further states, “The court is aware of the massive amount of media exposure and the fixed opinions of potential jurors who have directly heard statements by (Hood) admitting to acts that infer (his) guilt, read newspaper articles that state (Hood) made admissions of killing a police officer or heard the same information by word of mouth in the community.

In the selection process that began June 1, 47 people were qualified out of a field of 126 as potentially suited to serve on the jury.
“Of the 47 jurors that were kept 77% stated that they were familiar with the facts of the case and of (Hood) and 15% gave the opinion that (Hood) was guilty when asked by (Hood),” Mauldin states in his motion. “However the actual percentage may be higher than the figure given as (Hood) did not ask all 47 jurors who were qualified if they thought he was guilty.”

Earlier posts by me on this here and here. Worth your time, if you haven't already read them. OK, maybe not. Humor me.