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This Just In: August 12 - 19

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Baby Down!

Summary: A child is found alone and "tipped over" in a stroller on Penn Avenue.
Reporter: Julie Fine, "live" on WPXI Channel 11 Airtime: 1 minute, 2 seconds Highlights: * The caption, "'BREAKING NEWS."' * The child's mother, as she exits the police station and enters the waiting world of local TV stations. * When Fine briskly reports, "[This 23-year-old woman] just left here in handcuffs. Our cameras were rolling when she left the police station this afternoon. Police got a call around 12:30 that a two-year-old baby boy was in a stroller alone, near North and Wood Street[s], and it even tipped over. Luckily, one man saw the abandoned stroller and called police. He told us exactly what happened." * When a Wilkinsburg man recounts: "There was a kid right here on the side, um, just sittin' there cryin' in the baby carriage or whatever ... and we came out and just called the police, like wonderin' where the mother was or anything else like that." * When Fine hyperventilates, "'[M]eantime, the mom is now charged with child endangerment. The baby is with Child[ren] and Youth Services. Apparently the mom told police she left the baby outside of a relative's house. The relative was supposed to watch that baby, but left before that handoff was complete." * In a later, taped cut of the story, a woman from the same block says: "Somebody could have took the baby, somebody could have killed the baby." And, WPXI, thanks very much for heightening the sensational aspect of this story! News Value: Can I use a negative googol? Yep, there's no better way for a TV station to show how much it cares about child protection than to make a public example of a kid's mother and film her for all the world to see, including him when he grows up. I find such reports generally vicious and disgusting. Just as disturbing, in a story about an African-American mother, is that local news seems to give the benefit of the doubt to whites in similar cases. For all we can tell, this was an accident or misunderstanding, just like -- well, compare it to a story WPXI aired on July 28. The 4-year-old daughter of a white Brentwood man climbs in her dad's SUV and the vehicle crashes over a steep hill. Granted, the father wasn't arrested -- but the story is portrayed as "little girl's wild ride" and plays out as "everyone's glad she's OK." No one asks why the parents of a curious, mobile, small child keep their car doors unlocked, and where they were when this happened. Watching local TV news gives the impression that all negligent parents are poor African-Americans. I'm pretty damn sick of it.

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