Wednesday, May 14, 2014


"A little-known aspect of the juvenile justice system requires young offenders to pay for their own prosecution and incarceration."

The subtitle of the article: "Some Kids Get Charged Twice for One Crime," is accurate enough, but it's incomplete. In that, it seemed to mirror the piece as a whole, which I felt could (or possibly should) have been longer, because it touched upon so many different items of interest - the police and courts assessing charges against suspects, the fact that even the innocent must pay and the refusal of jurisdictions to explain the fees in detail. But the piece sort of limits itself to seeking sympathy for poor youth caught up in the system, rather than dealing with the broader questions of perverse incentives, a disingenuous system and opaque procedures.

Of course, it all makes a certain level of sense - the author is described as: "a senior producer and reporter for Youth Radio." Youthful reporter pursues story about youth problems for a youth audience. Not a problem, really. But in this case, it makes the story seem unnecessarily narrow. One doesn't have to be a teenager to be saddled with the costs of post-arrest investigation. Juveniles aren't the only people from whom jurisdictions attempt to recoup costs. And it's likely that advocates would also find themselves stonewalled if they asked for a line-item breakdown of the charges for an adult.

But the perception that the story is takes a broader issue and only explores a single avenue of it doesn't make it a poor story. (After all, it isn't a poor story.) But it does come across as being a slanted one. But perhaps this is because The Atlantic isn't a youth publication, and so the tight focus of the piece on the late DeShawn Morris and his mother gives the piece a tangible sense of unbalance that wouldn't be noticed by the "target demographic," as it were. In the end, I think, this is really what perceptions of media bias are all about - encountering something aimed at a demographic other than one's own and thinking that what has been encountered is a lack of fairness and objectivity rather than a lack of depth or breadth.

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