Why we chose not to run details of law firm's press release | Pressing Issues | Gina Channell-Allen | PleasantonWeekly.com |

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By Gina Channell-Allen

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About this blog: I am President of Embarcadero Media's East Bay Division and the publisher of the Pleasanton Weekly, Dublin TriValley Views, San Ramon Express and Danville Express. As a 25-plus-year veteran of the media industry, I have experience...  (More)

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Why we chose not to run details of law firm's press release

Uploaded: Sep 14, 2015
I spoke to a high school journalism class Thursday about the responsibility of journalists to analyze information before presenting it to readers.

The same day I spoke to this class, lawyers representing the family of John Deming Jr., the 19-year-old man shot by Pleasanton Police officer Daniel Kunkel in the early morning hours of July 5 outside an auto dealership in Pleasanton, released a report by a forensic toxicologist hired by the firm that said there were "no positive findings" of narcotics in the system of Deming when he was shot. According to the Pleasanton Police Department, Deming broke into the dealership and was acting erratically, including jumping on cars, screaming, and throwing a 50-pound floor jack through a window, and was shot while assaulting the officer. The family's attorneys contest this version of events based on alleged inconsistencies in the department's statements.

The results forensic toxicologist Edward J. Barbieri were released to the media in the form of a press release using emotionally-charged remarks including accusing the Pleasanton Police Department of a "cover-up" in the "officer-involved homicide," and referring to Kunkel as an "assassin" during his military service in Iraq.

The main purpose of the press release was to condemn Pleasanton for hosting "Operation Urban Shield," an annual first-responder training event, this weekend.

We have decided not to report on details of the press release as a news story at this time for a number of reasons, including timing and the piecemeal manner with which the Deming family attorneys appear to be releasing information to the media. The toxicology report was signed and dated Aug. 24, but wasn't released until Sept. 10.

The Los Angeles law firm, Geregos & Geregos, is considered a "celebrity" firm and has defended a number of well-known people such as Michael Jackson, Chris Brown and Scott Peterson. So the firm's PR people know exactly which media buttons to push and when. Operation Urban Shield was a perfect opportunity to start a media storm and, because they only released the toxicology report, they will have many, many opportunities to distribute more press releases.

This was only a minor point in our decision, though.

We also questioned who funded the report. The press release states that it was an "independent" report, which is a bit misleading. The Deming family retained the services of a pathologist, who is the one who requested the toxicology report done, so "third-party" or "private" might better describe the report.

We do not impugn the credibility of the forensic toxicologist or the accuracy of the report produced. However, there are drugs that are difficult to detect, including the new and popular club drug "bath salts." The toxicology report taken alone - without other information such if and where there were offensive and defensive wounds for example - can cause knee-jerk reactions and conclusions.

The bottom line is that after reviewing the press release issued by Deming's law firm including only findings of a toxicology report on narcotics in a privately-funded autopsy, and discussing the matter at length, we will not report on details of the press release as a news story at this time. We will withhold judgment on the incident and investigation and look forward to receiving complete reports from the Alameda County District Attorney's Office and from the Deming family. There are still many questions to ask of all parties involved.

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Comments

 +   25 people like this
Posted by Michael Austin, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows,
on Sep 14, 2015 at 3:59 pm

Michael Austin is a registered user.

I continue to support the Pleasanton Police Department.

Waiting for the Alameda County Coroner and the Alameda County District Attorney, to release the complete report regarding cause of death, of Deming is the correct way to proceed.

I believe Urban Shield is good for Pleasanton.


 +   8 people like this
Posted by Formerly Dan from BC, a resident of Bridle Creek,
on Sep 14, 2015 at 5:25 pm

Formerly Dan from BC is a registered user.

Gina,

I've been waiting for more information before making any comment, but your policy seems a little off to me.

Meredith Bauer, reporting for PW, wrote a article on July 7th (updated July 10th) giving the police ample space to get their side of the story out. Does it not ring a little hypocritical that you are taking this stance with the Deming' PR?

Again, not taking sides, just questioning the position of PW.

Dan


 +   14 people like this
Posted by Gina Channell-Allen, a PleasantonWeekly.com blogger,
on Sep 14, 2015 at 5:30 pm

Gina Channell-Allen is a registered user.

@Formerly Dan: We published this story Aug. 28.

http://www.pleasantonweekly.com/news/2015/08/28/family-of-teen-fatally-shot-by-pleasanton-police-officer-files-claim-against-department



 +   12 people like this
Posted by CarPark, a resident of Amador Valley High School,
on Sep 15, 2015 at 2:52 pm

CarPark is a registered user.

That's the thing, press releases, no matter who they are given by, are not fair and balanced, nor do they tell the whole story. The purpose of a press release is to set a narrative, not to be fair and balanced. People and/or organisations want their side of the story to be heard first and loudest. Everyone wants to win in the court of public opinion.

It does show responsible journalism not to report press releases verbatim or as fact. Press releases should be always looked at with a critical eye.


 +   9 people like this
Posted by San Ramon Observer, a resident of San Ramon,
on Sep 16, 2015 at 1:18 am

San Ramon Observer is a registered user.

Gina & CarPark are right. I often receive press releases from various sources that are little more than spin for whatever information the originator wants publicized. I've seen these printed verbatim with a blogger or reporter's byline, as if they are legitimate news stories. Good for you, Gina, not to play that game.

When I had my own San Ramon Express website, if I published a press release, I would put in the byline Press Release, received on date, from Source Name. I always made it clear where it came from. Too many times I see these published in the local and national press as if it is a news report.

Roz


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Formerly Dan from BC, a resident of Bridle Creek,
on Sep 16, 2015 at 5:28 pm

Formerly Dan from BC is a registered user.

Gina,

I finally had a chance to read your link. That article seems very fair with points from both sides so I'm not sure why you chose to attach it.

Anyway, thanks for the explanation.

Dan


 +   21 people like this
Posted by DJohns, a resident of Downtown,
on Sep 19, 2015 at 1:25 pm

DJohns is a registered user.


“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely"

Government left unchecked puts us at risk. Government should not be left investigating itself. Responsible citizens are involved citizens and demand accountability. There are some disturbing trends in police departments across the nation. Pleasanton PD is better than most departments, but the killing of an unarmed teenager confirms Pleasanton is not insulated from these concerns.

We rely on our newspapers to be the watchdog in the public's interest, to reveal the truth, to root out facts many people often want to keep hidden, to re-establish fairness, to shine light in dark places. They should be able to uncover the truth and not be selective in its revelations.

PW printed the police narrative, and then refuses to balance it with the Deming family's expert consultants. There is no fairness to leaving our community with the belief that John Deming was a drug-crazed criminal who deserved to die. John Deming was an unarmed, disturbed teenager, who was having a mental health crisis.

PW has been unwilling to ask questions about the inconsistencies that many of us have challenged. We have seen too many similar police statements that have been proven to be lies to accept a police statement as anything other than one side of a story. A police statement Is Not Fact!

It is irresponsible for us to blindly accept the police narrative. Without these videos the police reports would have been considered FACT but they were LIES and cover up. Web Link

Video shows South Carolina Police Officer Shooting Unarmed Black Man To Death
Web Link,

Cop indicted for murder in shooting of motorist in Ohio
Web Link. There are many more examples.

John Deming was an unarmed teenager, who was having a mental health crisis. The officers knew he was disturbed and talking to himself. They knew the only thing he had in his hand was a box. They did not follow protocol for contact with a disturbed individual; officers forced the deadly encounter. John Deming's family deserves to have answers. It is wrong that they have no choice but to hire high priced experts to get those answers, but I hope those experts do a good job because accountability is in the best interest of a free society.


 +   8 people like this
Posted by DJohns, a resident of Downtown,
on Sep 20, 2015 at 12:17 pm

DJohns is a registered user.

I am thankful for media that recognize their role of watchdog in the public interest.

12 Videos That Show The Difference Between What Cops Said And What Actually Happened
They raise questions about what might have happened if videos of the incidents had never surfaced -- and how many similar incidents never become known to the public.
Web Link

Cop Fatally Shot Teen In Back, Not In Self-Defense, lie on police report
Web Link
Web Link


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