NBC 5’s Pretty Carjacking Report

CarjackingThe reason we have journalists is to provide well rounded context to government data so the public is in a better position to assess the quality of the services provided by our government agencies. Katy Smyser’s recent post titled “NBC 5 Investigates Tracked 110 Carjacking in Chicago Over the First 7 Weeks of 2020” for NBC 5 in Chicago is a perfect example of the influence open government advocates have had on journalists. In this case it is not a compliment.

If the news organization is not going to add value to the data then why do we have them. I am not sure what value is being added to this crime incident data by NBC.  Just regurgitating government data without digging deep in to why the phenomena the data is about is happening just leaves the public less informed not more informed.

The data should be where the story starts and the point at where you realize the great difference between open government advocates and journalism. Anytime you look at a media report and say “wow I can find the same level of analysis or better on an open government organization website” there is a grave problem with the journalism.

It undoubtedly took some degree of effort to collect the data and create the visualizations. Too bad the same effort was not put in to reporting out the context around the data.

There is ample space for journalists in Chicago to fill in the huge gaps that exist in the context around the uptick in carjacking in Chicago. Chicago residents could really benefit from the fruit of some serious journalism on this topic. Right now, all we have is spot coverage, a pretty data visualization, and no context. Chicago needs better. 

From the sources I have talked to there are very specific reasons why those that wish to steal cars have gravitated towards carjacking someone rather than just stealing a parked car when nobody is around. I don’t remember seeing this covered by the media over the last few years.

Author: Tracy Siska

Tracy Siska is the Founder and Executive Director of the Chicago Justice Project.

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