Let me start by saying three things, and those who know me personally can attest to all of them. First, I tend to fly by the seat of my pants and say what I really am thinking, right when I am thinking it. I lack that filter that most folks have, you know, the little voice in the back of their head that tells them things like “maybe I wouldn’t say that if I were you.” Second, in certain aspects of my life, I tend to take things a bit too seriously, giving them more gravity than they deserve. Anyone who has heard me talk about job related politics can vouch for this. Along that line, just like Steve Martin’s character in “Father Of The Bride,” I tend to be a bit of an over-reactor, just a bit…
While in many cases, like in evaluating new patrol cars, patrol car equipment, computerized dispatch systems, police radio gear (all things my department has seen fit to include me in) or in evaluating firearms and firearms accessories (what I do as a hobby), my brutally honest initial reaction can be appreciated by most. However, sometimes, as in the case of my previous PoliceOne blog post, when combined with my tendency to over-react, sometimes I tend to stuff my size 13 shoe deep into my mouth.
Which brings us to the third truth about Matt: when I screw up, over-react and say something, that at the minimum could have been worded much better, after I come to the realization that I screwed up, I admit it. Anyone who has followed my Facebook page long enough has seen me do that there before. And that is exactly what I did with PoliceOne, which is why I am writing this.
Yes, in the past, PoliceOne has run news stories that were either inaccurate or had a negative tone towards law enforcement in them, but as I previously stated, that is because by contract, PoliceOne is not allowed to change the content of the story, even if it is to correct something that is factually incorrect. And yes, I still feel that the article that prompted my previous blog post was ridiculously out of place and has no business being run there. That said, it would be stupid of me to disregard the many valuable training articles that they still run, the training videos that they still put together, the many good original content articles that they run, just because I got angry about a couple of articles they ran. I’m sure we are all familiar with the old adage, cutting off one’s nose to spite the face. Yep, that is exactly what I was doing.
Come to find out, not in the least bit surprisingly, but running a large website like PoliceOne is a bit more involved that running this little blog and related FB page. Let me explain, or actually, let me let Doug Wyllie explain. The following is from an email conversation I had with Doug, and I have his permission to share it here. It has been edited slightly, both for length and to remove some personal remarks unrelated to the topic at hand.
The way I explain the way in which content is added to the site is to imagine a large airport with two pair of parallel runways intersecting at right angles. Each runway has its own air traffic controller. The landing airplanes are content we receive from various sources, each type of content (airplane) assigned to a specific runway. As the Editor at Large, my runway is the content for highest-level training stuff as well as commentary and news analysis — this is among the most important, but also the least frequently landing stuff.
There are two editors in charge of news. It is these two editors who copy/paste stuff from our AP and McClatchy news subscriptions (as you’d correctly pointed out, we can only modify the headline, not the text of those pieces). They also do what we call re-writes. When something is out there that is not in our feed, we take some of the information from an outside source, cite that we’re getting it from them, and do a very short version of it under the byline PoliceOne Staff.
That’s what happened in the case of the article about those 200 chiefs who issued some manner of statement in opposition to the President’s initiatives.
BTW, to round out my analogy, the final runway is for the Editor in Chief — my former job before I got assigned to my new role of Editor at Large about six months ago. That’s the content produced by our own contributing writers.
There are a lot of moving parts on our editorial team, and while we do coordinate with each other, we don’t all know what everyone else is doing at every moment of every day.
Some of that I knew, some I figured, and some was news to me. Also, it seems like a logical approach to describing a complex environment.
Am I still bothered by the fact that on occasion, PoliceOne runs a news story with an anti-cop bias or a factually incorrect news story? Yes, absolutely. I personally think it is of the utmost importance that a website which represents a law enforcement point of view should be publishing factually accurate news stories, from a law enforcement perspective, not from the perspective of an AP author who thinks cops are the bad guys. I won’t pretend to know the complexities of establishing and maintaining a contract with a large news source such as the Associate Press, but my suggestion would be to include, at the top of those AP news stories, some sort of disclaimer to let the reader know that the article that follows does not necessarily reflect the views of PoliceOne and that they (PoliceOne) are prohibited by contract from correcting any factual errors contained within. That is my suggestion. Is that possible? Only the people who negotiate those contracts would know.
Another issue that needs attention from PoliceOne, at least in my opinion, is that they need someone to monitor the comments on their Facebook page. The comment section following the sharing of an article can often times become a troll fest filled with sovereign citizen types and cop blockers, and it makes attempting to have a legitimate conversation about the article nearly impossible.
That said, as I previously stated, it would be stupid of me to completely disregard them, like I said I was going to in my original blog post. I have a new plan, one that was suggested to me, and one that makes sense. I am going to mostly ignore the news stories, and instead will pay more attention to the training articles and PoliceOne original content.
Finally, I’d like to personally thank Doug for going out of his way to clear this up. He owed me absolutely nothing, and based on the tone of my original blog post, I did not remotely deserve a polite response or an explanation, yet that is exactly what he gave me, and an in-depth one at that. Thank you.