Some newspapers are wishing that they followed police guidelines about objectivity. Some media reports on January 29 and 30 said that actor Jussie Smollett was attacked by two men near his Chicago apartment building.
Thanks to an extensive police investigation, we now know that the attack was staged. The media should have been more objective in their initial reporting: “Jussie Smollett told police that two men attacked him near his Chicago apartment building.”
There’s a huge difference between “Jussie Smollett was attacked” (a conclusion) and “Jussie Smollett said he was attacked” (a fact). It’s the reason news reporters are supposed to say “the alleged assault” and “the suspected assailant.”
And it’s the reason police officers record only facts – not hunches or conclusions – in their reports. A police investigation or court hearing might bring information to light that discredits police thinking at the scene. But if a report sticks only to facts, there’s little chance that the report will be challenged later.
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The initial Jussie Smollett police report below is objective and professional. I have two suggestions:
- The report should omit “at above listed location” – it doesn’t give any useful information
- “He said” is more natural than “he related,” which appears in the report several times