No comment? Or just lie?
February 8, 2011
OPINION By DANIEL BLACKBURN
In the wrenching aftermath of the deeply disturbing slaying of teenager Dystiny Myers, local news reporters encountered a virtual blackout of details from investigators. So when KCCN.tv published an account last October relating some of the last terrible moments of the girls’ life, some of those law enforcement officials apparently were not pleased.
The original KCCN.tv report centered on the existence of surveillance video recordings showing a pickup truck with a camper shell in which four suspects were holding the Myers girl. She was still alive but could be seen being beaten in the truck’s bed, according to sources who had seen the tapes.
The tapes also showed two Pismo Beach police officers, apparently on break and standing near the convenience store, watching two suspects who entered the store.
But rather than simply remaining quiet and issuing the appropriate “no comment” in response to KCCN.tv’s report, a decision was made somewhere along the chain of command to create a new reality. To fabricate. To equivocate. To prevaricate. To falsify. And consequently to render a version of facts different from those which KCCN.tv had reported, then feeding the resulting palaver to other local media. Which the other local media readily printed and breathlessly reported on-air.
Testimony now emerging from preliminary hearings for the suspects corroborates KCCN.tv’s report in its entirety.
In preparing the October report, KCCN.tv contacted numerous sources , each having a particular and professional interest in the case. Each was able to impart different factual elements to the story. One of those contacted who verified much of the key information was Jeff Norton, chief of police in Pismo Beach, who expressed concern about the two officers’ “unfortunate situation” and said they didn’t want to be interviewed.
A reporter visited the Chevron station where the incident occurred. A brief interview with the store’s clerk was conducted.
The number of surveillance security cameras both inside and outside the convenience store was noted. And the story was fact-checked just prior to going on-line with a source whose knowledge of the case was current and whose record for honesty is impeccable.
In other words, KCCN.tv’s story — we were certain — was entirely accurate.
So we were startled to read in the Oct. 14, 2010 Tribune a story by reporters AnnMarie Comejo and Cynthia Lambert which attempted to repudiate every salient fact in the KCCN.tv report. Why, at this point, wasn’t someone’s journalistic curiosity piqued upon encountering two starkly conflicting versions?
The misinformation fed to The Tribune and KSBY by someone in law enforcement included the assertions that the two Pismo Beach officers didn’t arrive at the Chevron station until 10 minutes after the suspects’ truck departed; that surveillance tapes didn’t show the truck; that only two suspects were in the truck; and that Pismo Beach police had not viewed the tapes. None of this was true.
The Tribune and KSBY disputed KCCN.tv’s reporting just as a local judge issued a complete gag order on participants in the Myers case, which effectively silenced the issue… until now.
The sheriff’s department’s “information office” has been the source of much misinformation on this case, right from the very first day. Someone over there apparently thinks it is okay to lie to the public. Someone over there needs to heed the words of seventeenth century writer Samuel Butler: “For truth is precious and divine… too rich a pearl for carnal swine.”