Reporters: Never Trust What Authorities Say

Great article in the recent Columbia Journalism Review about jailhouse reporter Paul Wright and how he uncovers abuses taking place in U.S. jails and accurately reports on jail violence, often extremely contrary to what jail authorities report on same events.

enhanced screen grab from CJR website

Makes me think of when I've been on the ground during reporting days in Africa, from Congo to Nigeria, fresh on the scene of violence, talking to eyewitnesses, seeing bodies on the ground. The more remote the area, or bizarre the violence, the more inaccurate it seems the official reports will be.

And some wire agencies will then simply quote a local police chief, spewing lies on the number of dead, and the origin of the violence, which will then be picked up as fact, and recirculated in many newspapers and other media, just as jail violence is.

We need more Paul Wrights, and we need to stop believing authorities when they report on violence, especially in remote or hard to access areas.

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