A Gun in Your Face, Part Two: “Citizen Journalism” (huh?)

Inman Park robbery fallout, evasions provide more grist.


As with just about everything else that takes place, the responses and reactions to Wednesday night’s Inman Park armed robbery – blogged about yesterday – were more interesting than the event itself.

Two female waiters from Barcelona Wine Bar, walking to their cars, were approached about 11 p.m. by a man and his woman accomplice. The man had a gun. Here’s the .

Here’s the , which preceded any news reports.

In the blog post, I explain that I was half-asleep during the action in the street below our second-floor patio. I note that I was relying on the account of my girlfriend, who saw and heard much of the immediate aftermath. (“He had the gun in her face!” one of the two victims was heard shouting to bystanders.) The words “seem,” “seems” and “seeming” occur five times in the blog post. At the end, I write, “In truth, I don’t know if any of this really happened.”

Turns out it did. First word of what went down came in the form of an alert to residents on a neighborhood listserv and in email Thursday evening. It described the incident succinctly, minus the part about (ahem) the gun.

Later, the neighborhood association posted more details. This account said the male suspect “flashed what appeared to be small caliber semi-automatic weapon.” Is there any difference between “flashed” and “in her face”? Only if you’re the person looking down the barrel.

A tip about blog comments. In general, they are best ignored – if you don’t know what I’m talking about, then scroll down (but I think you do) – and I so ignore them, along with email from strangers. Call it ... a prophylactic measure. Mental hygiene. Little good can come of it, and if you have a blog, doing the same is the best advice I can give you.

But after yesterday’s post, given the official silence, I was hoping that someone even nearer to the crime than our patio would weigh in and inform residents more fully.

I checked, and this popped in!

“Gee, I guess all this information is off the top of your head, since there is no attribution. Did you talk to the cops? Greg Scott, the Inman Park VP for Public Safety has a neighborhood Yahoo report on this incident. This is what's wrong with citizen journalism. Few facts, just puff.”

Right away, I regretted allowing the don’t-read-’em policy to lapse, because now I had not only an explicit question to answer but a larger puzzle.

No, I didn’t talk to the cops. I never talk to cops if I can help it. Easy. 

The baffler was the “citizen journalism” aspect.

What is “citizen journalism,” anyway? Are journalists not also citizens? Can citizens not be trusted to report what they see and hear, like journalists do?

Or was the commenter saying Patch presented my blog as news, even though it’s not only marked as a blog, not news, but also written in the first person, and full of doubts, disclaimers and qualifications of the kind rarely seen in news articles?

Well, I wasn’t going to ask. This would mean going back to the comments section, where I would risk seeing another that might have had landed in the box. Nope.

Maybe she meant I’m not employed as a journalist, and therefore should not be relied upon. Understandable, sort of. Except that I’ve been a reporter and editor at newspapers and magazines for more than 30 years, and still puffin’ forward.

As for the “no attribution” claim … this, thank god, I could handle. Everything I wrote was clearly attributed to my long-suffering girlfriend (except for a few snazzy literary flourishes that most definitely came “off the top of my head”! Blush).

What about the “neighborhood Yahoo report”? Most likely she was referring to an entry on Yahoo's Inman Park board. If it was anything like the other official reports, then the facts accord almost perfectly with goings-on that we extrapolated from the commotion in the street Wednesday night.

But I don’t have access to the Yahoo group. More than two years ago, after moving here, I applied to join but never got a reply. They must have known.

Of course, I’m kidding about that, sort of. And I understand that shops and apartment complexes have financial reasons for trying to ensure that the most sterile, detail-free versions of unfortunate events hold sway. Everybody has motives. Some quick Googling found that someone with my commenter's name has a loft for rent in Inman Park, or did as recently as last year.

What are my motives? In a word, private. Infernal. Diabolical! I can tell you the ol’ Patch is not shoveling any moolah in this direction, though.

A segment of non-cash-minded Inman Park loyalists is out there, too, seething that I am evil and “negative” for trying to get the truth about what happens where we live, and for making noise until they tell us. Up next: “Nowhere is safe! If you don’t like living here, go back where you came from!” (Scroll down. If it’s not there yet, it will be.) Sounds logical for six seconds or less, until you realize that staying and making noise is what makes a place better. As many Atlanta neighborhoods already show, it’s the leaving that hurts, that lets everything go to hell. Or the staying, and silence.

Once upon a time, this is what journalism – even the ghastly kind of journalism that an unwashed “citizen” might perform – knew best.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Space Ship May 12, 2012 at 10:55 PM
I had my concerns reaffirmed after reading this. He who does not utilize the police is as guilty as those who deliberately close their blinds (or their eyes) to crime. I stand by (taller now) my first post from your previous article.


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