Do You Trust Reporters During Breaking News?

by Demetria L. Lucas

Chris Dorner

At the time of this writing — after 1:30AM — I’m not exactly sure what happened to Chris Dorner, who is or was the ex-LAPD officer who murdered the daughter of a LAPD police union rep and her fiancé, then eluded police for over a week.

Last night, from a cabin in Big Bear, California, he allegedly killed a police offer and wounded two more before he either set the cabin fire or the police bombed it. Multiple “reliable” news outlets reported he was dead, some even referring to his “charred body,” but then the LAPD invited over-eager reporters to have several seats by announcing they have not yet found a body — any body’s body, much less Dorner’s. In fact, they haven’t even been in the cabin because it’s still too damn hot. Dorner might be on the run, or might be dead. Your guess is as good as any reporter’s.

Wild misinformation during breaking news stories has become a common place. Yesterday, some broadcast journalists played the equivalent of “Eenie meenie miney mo” to guess whether Donner was still with us or had gone to the Great Beyond. Two months ago, TV reporters mis-indentified the shooter in the Sandy Hook school killing, naming his brother instead and even flashing his picture on the news. In a rush to be “first,” some journalists are acting irresponsibly, and losing credibility.

Other journalists are filling broadcasts with bad experts or pointless discussions. Last night, CBS was so desperate to avoid dead air they didn’t even bother to check to if a man claiming to be a member of the Big Bear State Fish and Game Department was actually a real source. He was actually a Howard Stern fan who claimed to be “Ronnie the Limo Driver,”  who was “on his way to a block party” when he fired his gun at Dorner. When the reporter continued the interview after that outlandish statement, even the hoaxer was fed up. “You’re a real dumb ass” he told the reporter. “You still don’t know this is a prank?!”

I tuned into this real-life drama playing out like a made-for-TV movie sometime around 6PM. Dorner was allegedly in the cabin and surrounded by cops, but there hadn’t been any more to report in a while. All the commentators and experts were having lengthy discussions about whether Dorner should surrender to police, as if a former cop who allegedly had just killed one and injured a few more was actually going to turn himself over. Had any of them even bothered to read Dorner’s manifesto detailing how he was specifically screwed over by the LAPD, which he also found to be corrupt in general?

And it’s not like the LAPD would actually take Dorner into custody. Days earlier, two Hispanic women — one a 71-year-old — were shot by the LAPD as they rode in a truck that resembled the one Dorner was last seen driving. So like I said, there was no way in hell he was going into police custody. The options were A) suicide; B) a literal blaze of glory; or C) going out like “Cleo” at the end of Set It Off. But their reporters sat rambling on like there was a probable “D” choice, if indeed Dorner was even in that house.

As commentators and “experts” kept yapping, I wondered if I — you know as a Black member of the general public — was even the intended for the audience for these broadcasts. The experts and the reporters on CNN and MSNBC were talking about how Dorner should surrender so the LAPD would no longer be terrorized, and how sad it was that the LAPD was being targeted and living in fear. And all I could think was, “Well, now they know how Black and Brown  people in LA feel!”

Don’t get me wrong, I want Dorner caught, but it’s because he killed that poor girl and her fiance’. And because round-faced, caramel-colored Black men (that means you, LL) — and apparently, Hispanic grannys — ain’t safe on the streets until Dorner’s dead. The last thing on my mind was the pain and suffering of the LAPD. I came of age listening to NWA’s “Fuck da Police” and watching the grainy footage of the Rodney King beating. What the dominant culture calls the LA “riots,” I refer to as an uprising. Frankly, I’m real “meh” on the LAPD and its “chickens coming home to roost” Moment.

And I wish I’d caught the expert’s name on CNN who referred to the part of Dorner’s manifesto when he choked out a fellow white officer who was dropping n-bombs left and right. When confronted by Dorner, the officer told him, “I’ll say it when I want.” Oh, word? The expert said it was evidence of that Dorner was “unstable,” and I thought “oh, he must be talking to the dominant culture”  because Black folk might think that’s out of order, but not nowhere does it hold water as evidence of being crazy.

But maybe I am for relying on the news to get a story right or represent my point of view.

Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria), in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk

  • PBR

    No they are so eager to be “first” that they will put out any unconfirmed reports. I was up during breaking news online but didn’t click any stories because they won’t have the story right til tomorrow.

  • Beautiful Mic

  • Jess

    I don’t know that I believe any of the reports about what when on in the Dorner case.Seems to me that there was much more to it than meets the eye. For all I know that final showdown in the mountains was staged. But you are absolutely right, it could only have ended one way, they weren’t about to take him in to custody.

  • AnGe

    Clearly something is fishy. I think any black person knew from the jump, the lapd, feds, and whoever else were not about to let this black man live. He won’t even have a chance for a trial let alone to surrender.

    I was watching the coverage and one minute they were showing the cabin, then they panned away to the freeway, then they panned back and all of sudden the cabin was on fire :-/

    Regardless, he is a citizen and is entitled to a trial by jury. The man who shot up the movie theater is still alive and awaiting trial and the man who shot Trayvon Martin is still alive and is awaiting trial, that woman (whose name escapes me) who was accused and most likely killed her own baby girl was also given a trial and was found not guilty.

    Law enforcement has been acting funny through this whole nightmare. Shootin up old ladies and putting a ransom on this man’s head. No, I don’t agree with Dorner’s actions but he does appear to be a man caught at the end of his rope. He clearly has some mental health issues that needed to be dealt with. But if I remember right, the news media went on and on trying to explain why the movie theater killer was so mentally challenged bringing up all kinds of details from his childhood, constantly trying to rationalize or explain away the behavior.

    What is the exact evidence that this man has committed these crimes? Anyone can post anything they want on Facebook. Something is just really not right about this entire ordeal.

  • dirtychai

    Exactly. They may as well just let the cameras roll live and uninterrupted. Most people can speculate without help.

  • http://gravatar.com/jamesfrmphilly jamesfrmphilly

    i suppose that now everything will go back to business as usual?

  • Fantastico

    The authorities created a no fly zone over the cabin at one point.

  • Sasha

    I suppose I’m full blown apathetic at this point because when I finally sat down to read about this Dorner situation (on Monday, days after the shooting) I was unfazed, flipped to the Sudoku puzzle and didn’t give the story a second thought. I haven’t followed any news sites or stories about the situation because quite frankly I don’t care. When it comes to news/ media, I go the way of “believe half of what you see and none of what you hear”.

  • The Moon in the Sky

    -The LAPD also shot a man.

    -I don’t think Dorner had mental health issues. He made it pretty clear why he was doing what he did.

  • Rakel

    I finally caught up with this story. I was purposely staying away from it for a while.Such a shame about the couple, and others affected by his spree including his family. But after reading his manifesto I really want journalists to look into his claims. He really went into detail about everything he felt and if there was racism and corruption (I believe it) within the LAPD the public has a right to know and those individuals should get prosecuted for what they’ve done.

  • Cas

    I work at a “News Channel” and now view each news story with skepticism. Last night each news station trotted out paid “experts” that knew nothing or at most very little about the situation. I Do not condone Dorner’s actions, what he did was deplorable. But, I do hope that if there is any truth to Dorner’s accusations, that those in the LAPD that were involved feel a twinge of guilt when they go to bed at night. The LAPD (and everyone for that matter) now know that when you mess people over that person may just be mentally unstable, able to obtain weapons, and know how to use them.

  • http://www.conventionalculture.com/ ConventionalDee

    This story is fascinating on so many levels, so I am pouring over all media sources for information. But you can’t trust everyone, because this is a complex story and only certain issues are being presented in the media. That said, I wish Dorner had handled this differently, because his claims against the LAPD are more than likely legit, but he will be labeled a crazy black man, rogue officer, and swept under the rug.

  • Jennifer

    I feel there are no investigative reporters or journalists. If there were, Christopher Dorner may have had another outlet to go to for help. Journalists, IMO, are LAZY! They sit back and wait for news to come to them as “confidential informant”, etc. They are often on the side of police, as they will not get the call from the PR Representative at the police department, or it will be a late call, on any newsworthy information. I live in a small town in the midwest and this is how it rolls here.
    I have read Christopher “manifesto” and I feel he followed all legal channels he had available to him. I felt he was sane. I felt they did in fact wake a “sleeping giant” though. You can only poke a dog (not saying he is/was a dog – just making a reference) until that dog will bite! I don’t agree with a statement that this Dr. Amador made on CNN (I think it was) about him having psychological problems…unless it was him snapping after all the BS he went through after trying to be an upstanding officer/man/citizen and reporting a wrong, whether it be another person in uniform or not. I feel at the very least, if he were psychologically impaired and that is why the LAPD terminated him, then SHAME ON THEM for not getting him help…but I don’t believe that was the case anyway. Still, I think the blood is on their hands. This man, from what I have read and seen, LIVED to be an officer and soldier, and not a bully or a corrupt one. It’s sad that other upstanding “brothers in blue” did not come and stand by him (in the last 5 years) BEFORE it got to this point and SHAME ON THEM!! I do believe there are great police officers out there who are there to make the world a better place but there are too many bad ones that corrupt the system and get off on belittling, beating, berating others (even if those people are in their own race). Some do it just to say on the force, but they are still guilty! Where were Christopher’s brothers in blue that were True Blue?
    Any person could be brought to this level after going through what this man went through. Many people who did the same thing he did (reported abuse) got off with much less (a reprimand) or they were charged with filing a false police report, BUT, I believe he was told to not mention it in his police report by a superior.
    I think Christopher was/is the epitome and had the character of what a soldier and officer should be/have…but they beat him down emotionally, financially and spiritually over time. They raped his mind and I feel someone besides LAPD needs to investigate. Police should NEVER police themselves!
    This man opened himself up to be investigated with dates, names and circumstances. He gave the ways and means for the media to investigate this situation.
    This man seems/seemed to have a heart of gold and definitely had a smile that went on forever. He obviously did not want to hurt civilians, as he did not hurt the maids or the driver of the pickup. He wanted the LAPD to ADMIT THEY LIED! But, sadly, it never should have gotten to this point and Christopher, God Bless him, probably never would have gotten to this point if people in power weren’t souless and so easily led into corruption and abuse.
    They went after him to execute him – no arrest, no jury. No hearing. No proof of anything. Why are cops lives more important than citizens lives? Why did they put a bounty on his head when they have not done that for any person they have been on the lookout for a crime? How come the cops that shot at the women in the truck and the man in his were put on administrative paid leave? They were “nervous” and that’s an excuse to riddle bullet holes in vehicles? Why are the journalists not following this up, asking why aren’t their officers trained in stressful situations to not react like that and why are they being PAID? This is far worse than reporting excessive force of another officer, isn’t it??!!
    I have a small little hope that Christopher got away but I fear he didn’t. I heard a snippet of a radio transmission on youtube that they used fire to burn the cabin and had made holes in it to lure him out but that he had probably taken his own life (at least if he did – he went on his own terms and not on theirs), but I know that if he died, he is now free of his torture of the LAPD and I believe he IS at peace. I know he has opened a lot of eyes, a lot of hearts and hopefully an investigation by someone other than LAPD will be done and some changes will be made and this will not have been done in vain. I hate that others died in the process and I pray for their families to have peace as well…if only LAPD would have confessed…they have much housecleaning to do.
    Rest in Peace, Christopher, one way or another. You have made many people who would have loved to have gotten to know you. I hope your family and friends will come out and speak of you and are not ashamed.

  • Shockacon2

    THE HAUNTED AND THE HUNTED CHRISTOPHER DORNER

    It really is a shame. Given that he was only 33 years old, it is impossible not to see this man as a Christ-like figure. Persecuted. Tried. Condemned to death. And the people cried out, “Crucify him!”

    Christopher Jordan Dorner first lived the life of a good man and a good soldier, but died the life of a killer. He told the world his story, including the nuances of how racism, and the lynch mob mentality of white supremacists in LAPD conspired to inferiorize his capabilities, degrade his talents, and destroy not only his reputation, but also his ability to make a living. He knew he had been demeaned, framed, branded, and ruined. He fought back.

    Intelligent, competent, capable black professionals are still often The Outsider, The Other in the “diverse” workplace because the underlying values, attitudes, and structures still support their exclusion. They sense that they cannot be a valued member of the team, even though the price of admission is not just to be as good, but three times better, than their white male or female co-workers. It doesn’t take long to be marginalized, demeaned and fall victim, to the way the system works to uphold white privilege. They are competing for limited benefits in a rigged game. Can you say “in-group” v. “not-a-member-of-the-club”?

    One lone individual cannot dismantle the structure of institutional racism which permeates, not only police departments around the country, but also our government, universities, churches, and just about any and all organizations in our nation which have historically discriminated against African Americans and other people of color.

    People of color will, nevertheless, still try to penetrate and reshape these institutions. Is it really possible to eliminate the hostility and the un-level and unjust playing field African Americans especially, but also other people of color, find when they enter a predominantly white workplace? Yes, but hearts and minds have to change. It cannot be done with the gun.

    The flames of hell licking at the feet of Christopher Dorner cannot be any worse than the flames that consumed him in that cabin. I feel sorry for his victims and their families, as well as for his family. Perhaps the latter understand what drove him over the edge. Even if they don’t, they will never condemn him as White America does.

    The latter reflexively took on the high-tech trappings of the old slavecatcher. Putting a bounty on his head. Bringing out the hounds. Hunting him with guns and military vehicles. Cop killer? Domestic terrorist? Fired ex-cop? Cold-blooded Murderer? Yes, all of the foregoing. Just don’t leave out “an angry, thoughtful, young black man who, despite the slights and insults he had endured all of his life, had served his country and his community before he turned rogue. In the end, he died deeply wounded, deeply disillusioned, and deranged, once he discovered that America is still incapable of delivering justice to the Black Man.

  • AnGe

    Depression is a mental health issue. Running out of coping strategies is also a mental health issue. Was he logical and methodical, yes. Mentally healthy, I would still say no.

  • Penny

    Indeed. Lynchings will go back to being untelevised.

  • Agent J

    I didn’t read his manifesto, but did he say he was depressed?

  • The Comment

    Like you, I too viewed this story as a real thriller that I hope gets made into a movie. What intrigued me the most was that he wrote a manifesto. I know white men living off the grid were LIVID when they found out they no longer have the monopoly on going bat shit crazy and going down in flames for their cause.

    We’re are soo used to stories of mindless black criminals victimizing blacks over stupid stuff. It was surprising to see a skilled navy service person and trained police officer methodically act out his vengeance with some degree of precision.

    I tell you what they are afraid of. That that charred body is not his.

  • The Comment

    @ Jennifer…

    Thank you for typing what I’m too lazy to write. I soo agree with you. This man was pushed to the very edge and just snapped. He was totally sane. What kills me is that people who have not been pushed to the edge judge those who have. I have been pushed to the edge several times and thank god I did not kill anyone. It is not as simple as staying calm and rationale during extreme stress.

    I think journalist forget that more people now are educated and have gone to college. They forget that Critical Thinking 101 is a required course. For some, the most enjoyable topic to explore in their academic journey. So too just label someone as depressed or not normal isn’t flying with people who; have lost their homes through no fault of their home, lost pensions, lost this and that…..and went through the proper channels to get help only to find out that they are simply azz out AFTER they have followed the rules.

    Not that you have to go to college to think critically…not at all…but anyone who has met a black service person knows that they have caught hell from all sides and they truly are a unique breed of people who are misjudge to begin with.

    Again…..I enjoyed reading your thoughts.

  • http://tontonmichel.tumblr.com Tonton Michel

    The cops will now begin the process of sweeping his charges against them right under the rug.

  • apple

    you don’t have to be psychotic to kill someone, you just need a reason

  • The Moon in the Sky

    That is what I was trying to say. Some people just snap. When you are the type of person who believes in what is morally right and being honest, but are punished for it, then you might begin to rethink your approach.

  • Purple Rain

    All I have to say is, if law enforcement went after gang bangers, rapists and serial killers as hard as they went after Dorner, violent crime would cease to exist.

  • Cocochanel31

    This resoonse was EVERYTHING! I just shared it with several friends. So well stated nothing left to say!

  • http://ladyngo.blogspot.com Lady Ngo

    Exactly. But whether its intentional or not, the likelihood of breaking news being 100% accurate is nearly impossible, especially in a situation like this. There are plenty of times even in minor news that we go weeks without getting all the true facts. Then you add the thugs in blue and other state/federal agencies into the mix. We’ll probably never know the real facts.

  • bluefacedangel

    First they found his wallet and ID near the boat he tried to steal in San Diego. Now they found his wallet and ID (fully intact) in the scorched out cabin that he burned to death in? Gimme a break!

  • Rakel

    ITA. No reason for them to get involved. It’s perfectly ok if we stay in our place killing each other.

  • http://gravatar.com/jamesfrmphilly jamesfrmphilly

    RAMBRO was a BIG guy. i wonder if he had any steroids in his system?

    roid rage anyone?

  • http://twitter.com/TalkingWithTami TalkingWithTami (@TalkingWithTami)

    I’d rather get my news from twitter its a bit more accurate than these racist news channels! So sad!

  • Anthony

    James, I don’t know if Dorner was on steroids, but I was about his size and clean when I was his age. Unfortunately, a lot if that muscle has migrated south over the last couple of decades. LOL.

  • Anthony

    I had to laugh when I heard on NPR that the San Bernadino police said the fire was unintentional even though they admitted shooting incendiary tear gas canisters at the cabin. This is so much like Symbionese Liberation Army shoot out back the Seventies, it’s not even funny.

  • The Moon in the Sky

    He was dropping wallets left and right. (LOL)

  • http://gravatar.com/nattynay nattynay

    I’m so tired of people painting the “media” as some big, floating monster.

    It’s true that news media has been a medium to distort truths and being extremely biased.

    However,

    As far as reporters are concerned, the way it works is when a reporter gets the information, you get information. Meaning whatever their source (police, official, witness) provides is what they put out to inform the masses. Sometimes that’s not the full truth(especially with up to the minute coverage). Our news in the U.S. is so based on what brings in ratings and regulated by the gov’t (FCC/FTC) that the “real” story gets overlooked by executive producers and network presidents.

    *Think about it*
    The gov’t regulates what goes on air, police departments are government institutions, don’t want the boys in blue to look bad. Many radio and tv stations are regulated by the gov’t meaning that those stations would receive backlash for running certain stories about said institutions.

    Overall there are journalists out there who work outside of the status quo to inform the masses about the truth(most of which are silenced). Given the corruption within the LAPD the city is definitely going to try to paint Dorner as a crazed murderer(along with CNN commentators).

    The “media” just like many other professions are not black and white. There’s plenty more that meets the eye and that’s fed to the public.

    *Agree to disagree*

  • http://gravatar.com/jamesfrmphilly jamesfrmphilly

    “when a reporter gets the information, you get information”

    there are no editors? really?

  • Anthony

    I don’t want to make Christopher Dorner a hero, but I am sure there was merit to his claims. Police departments without the ugly history of the LAPD have problems with brutality and institutional racism, so it would make sense that there are still issues with LA law enforcement.

    I think that in today’s America, there is a danger in African Americans embracing Dorner. No matter how imperfect things are, we have made real political gains. Our enemies would love nothing more than to portray us as eagerly supporting a cop killer to alienate us from those who might coalesce with us on various political issues of interest.
    We need to acknowledge that Dorner had a point about institutional racism and corruption in law enforcement, but we have to condemn his murders, and stress that he likely had serious undiagnosed mental illness.

    Finally, it has to be stressed how cowardly the police response to Dorner was. They were literally shooting up any pickup that looked like Dorner’s Toyota. The shooting of the women delivering papers was craven.
    It was clear that the police were horrified at the idea of someone who had the skill level to inflict serious damage on them. In all of my years of following the news, I have never heard of a suspect winning multiple shoot outs with the police. I also agree with others who said that the police were not interested in seeing Christopher Dorner live to testify in a courtroom.

  • Guess

    What I find most fascinating is his ability to articulate himself so precisely. He left nothing up to interpretation & did something most aren’t capable of -he gave us an historical, multi-dimentional view of his inclinations, motivations & perceptions. Believe it or not, “white” America is embracing this man as well – looking at him as a superhero & avenger of all ppl. Many whites don’t trust or respect our government, either. He has thousands of fan pages, blogs & memorial pages dedicated to him – and hosted predominant by white folks. There is definitely some commonality here. Sadly, there will be plenty of copycat cases carried out against govt agents & so-called public service personnel by white militia, gun advocates, etc. This man struck serious fear in the hearts of the LAPD – had them running scared & frenzied in their own back yard – cowards. SMH

  • Suzy

    A Christ like figure? Is that some kind of joke? I don’t recall Christ killing people in cold blood? I’m sure his philosophy was one of love and peace.

    Chris Dorner was entitled to his disagreement with the LAPD, yes. It is no secret that the LAPD is corrupt and racist. If his manifesto is true as written, we can agree that this was a black man who was being oppressed and denied his rights.

    However, when Dorner decided to compile a hit list (of some 50 or so people) and start killing the innocent daughter of a police chief and her fiance then he crossed over into different territory. From then on, we were no longer dealing with a black man who had a legitimate claim for discrimination – we were dealing with a psychopathic murderer. Should the public see his actions as any different from a disgruntled boy who goes into a school and shoots children just because he’s black and faced racism?

    What did the daughter of the police chief and her fiance have to do with this whole thing? Would you have been happy for your child to be murdered in cold blood by someone who was upset with how you’d treated them?

    Yes, Dorner may have been denied a job in the LAPD but this did not give him the right to describes the lives and futures of others in such a brutal manner especially.

    I don’t condone his actions or feel bad for him just because he is black. That’s lame. If we want to discuss discrimination let’s do that, but let’s not excuse homicidal actions at the same time. So what if he’d served his country before he “went rogue”?? How does that make his actions ok?

    Perhaps he’d had a psychotic break or was suffering with some kind of mental disorder. Perhaps his treatment at the hands of the LAPD while working there was part of this. That’s very unfortunate. But it is not a normal response to kill people – and that’s the reason for which Dorner had to be dealt with.

    The most bizarre thing is that Dorner’s manifesto will never be taken seriously, nor given the time of day because of his actions. If he really intended to create some change as you suggest, I’m not sure how he thought that killing people would do that.

    Any corruption will most likely continue now in the LAPD, as will racism, as will whatever else Dorner talked about. So, what did Dorner achieve in the end, except some 5 minutes of fame (which quite frankly is probably what he really wanted)? He certainly did nothing to advance the cause of black people!!

  • http://back-to-nothing.com Dante

    I don’t believe Dorner was “mentally ill.” I believe his reaction to his being fired was one that was not inevitable. Dorner was pushed to his limit, which is clear when you read his manifesto. How many times did he mention going to some board to testify against the evils plaguing the LAPD? Each and every time, he was denied and made to look bad.

    All of this made him snap.

    Dorner was a good man who made a very bad decision, but he was by no means a bad man or a mentally ill man. You don’t have to be crazy to kill people, you just need to have a reason.

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