The Press: Non-Essential for Our Lives

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According to Robert J. Haiman's Best Practices for Newspaper Journalists, Americans believe freedom of press is essential, but at the same time they say the press has too much freedom (71-3).

I say that alot of time and thought is spent arguing over the power of the press and media.  I tired of hearing people say how essential journalists are to our lives: finding governement scandals, reporting the news, investigating problems for us....yada yada yada...blah blah blah. 


Newspapers and their journalists are not essential to our lives.  Newspapers are about as essential as toilet paper.  It's convenient, but you can do without it.  How often do you see people complaining about toilet paper?



In Defense of Christina Korbe: Editorial Writing

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When writing an editorial, a journalist chooses a stand-point on a particular issue and argues for their point with respect and consideration for the opposing viewpoint.

In the case of Christina Korbe, I have found very little news coverage or editorial writing that favored her.  Almost every pieve of news I have read about Korbe puts her in the negative spotlight.  It is the duty, as journalists, to write from every angle, every side, of the story.  In Korbe's case, I have only read one angle--repetatively.  And it's bad. 

In order to redeem all the newswriters out there, I present the other side of the story.  Christina Korbe's side of the story. You may agree.  You may disagree.  But, as a citizen of the United States, Korbe deserves at least one editorial in her favor.  It's her right.  It's a journalist's duty.


Here is a case where I would have written an editorial coming to the defense of Christina Korbe.  I will present clips from newspaper articles as well as my own commentary/summary:

Following the fatal shooting of FBI Special Agent Sam Hicks (Nov. 19, 2008), many were ready to throw Christina Korbe into prison for life, or better yet, end her life with a lethal injection.  She was the woman who pulled the trigger, ending Hicks's life. 

In the year since Hicks's death, Korbe was tried for his murder.  She did not receive the death penalty.  Her case is still pending.

The incident occured when Sam Hicks entered the Korbe residence in the early morning (while it was still dark) to serve a warrant to Robert Korbe on drug charges. 

Hicks "led a team of agents in breaking down the front door and charging into the home" when he "was shot by the drug suspect's wife, who told police she thought he was an intruder, authorities said" (Woman charged, jailed).


The following is from "Woman charged in agent's death jailed" found in the Tribune Review the day after the incident (Nov. 20, 2008):

According to the criminal complaint:

Korbe and his wife were in bed when officers surrounded the house on Woods Run Road, knocked on the door at 6:03 a.m. and announced themselves as police officers with a warrant for Robert Korbe's arrest.

The bearded Hicks watched through a door window as Robert Korbe ran through the house. Hicks ordered other officers to break down the door.

The officers, repeatedly announcing themselves as police, rammed the door a number of times before it broke. Hicks was the first one inside.

Other officers saw him make a quick left turn as he entered and then heard a single gunshot. Hicks shouted, "I'm hit!" and fell to the ground.

He was dragged outside by other officers, who performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation until paramedics arrived.

Christina Korbe called 911 at 6:05 a.m. and told emergency dispatchers that she believed her home was being burglarized and that she shot an intruder with a .38-caliber handgun. She was still on the phone when officers ran upstairs and took her into custody.

She told police that after her husband ran downstairs, she grabbed a gun from the bedroom closet, stood at the top of the staircase, reached around the corner and fired a single shot down the stairs. She said she did not know that those who broke down the door were police officers.

Robert Korbe said when the front door window was broken, he knew it was the police, so he ran into the basement to retrieve cocaine from a file cabinet and flush it down the washtub. He ran out the back door, where he was arrested."


In all the reports surrounding this case, no one took the side of Christina Korbe.  For the sake of seeing this issue from every angle I will try to argue that she was unjustly punished.  If I were writing an editorial piece on this case from her stand-point, I would write something like this: 

Imagine it's a cold November night, perfect for sleeping.  You're curled up in your bed, safe and sound with your children sleeping softly in the next room.  At 6:30 in the morning, before the sun has even peaked it's rays above the horizon, your front door is smashed in and you are wrenched from your sleep.  You look for your husband in the bed next to you so he can go find out what's happening.  He isn't there.  Your heart is pounding.  Someone is breaking into your home and you can't find your husband.  

You know there is a shot gun kept in your room.  It was put there in case something like this would happen, but you never truly thought it would.  You grab the gun and creep to the head of the stairs.

As you peer down, you see a figure in the darkness climbing the stairs.  The door to your children's bedroom is at the head of the stairs and you panic.  My babies!  You have to stop this intruder.  You have no other choice.  Your chidlren are in danger.  You fire the gun.

Now you may say, "Big deal.  Jeanine is exagerating here to make a point.  What a bad editorial writer she is, slanting views and all."  But isn't that what most editorial pieces do?  Don't they usually slant the view to either favor or degrade the subject?   

I will also reply with this:

From "'Take care of my babies,' suspect pleads":

But she said her sister "Chrissie," the youngest of six children, was concerned about safety in her home because someone broke in several months ago while the family vacationed in Florida. Township police could not be reached to verify that a break-in occurred.

"They stole a motorcycle. And (the Korbes) thought people had been stealing firewood from the backyard for a while," Wakmunski said.


You don't think I have some case here in defense of Christina Korbe?  She was concerned about her family from the start because there home had been burglarized before.  She kept a gun in her home (for which she received child endangerment charges)* to protect her family in case the intruders came again.  When Hicks knocked down the door early in the morning, what was she supposed to think? 

What would YOU have done?

Christina Korbe was protecting her children from what she thought was an intruder.  She did not kill Hicks in cold blood.  She does not deserve life in prison.

* I have received alot of hate mail telling me that the break-ins at the Korbe home was staged by Robert Korbe so he could falsely claim the theft on his insurance (insurance fruad).  I never heard anything about that in this case.  If you have a link to a news article where I can read it for myself, I will entertain the notion and comment here.



Here is an article I found supporting Korbe.  It's by Jerome L. Sherman of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:  The Fatal Shot: Was Christina Korbe Protecting Her Two Children?


Most recent news about the case: Federal "Taint Team" Oversees Admisibility of Evidence in Korbe Case (March 30, 2010)


For more reader comments on this blog, 

follow these links to blogs that have quoted me:  

Mike302000- In Defense of Christina Korbe 

The Accurate Reloading Political Crater 


This blog was originally written for Dr. Jerz's News Writing class at Seton Hill Univeristy.

Copyright 2009. Jeanine M O'Neal 

In Defense of Television Journalism

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During the past three classes of Dr. Jerz's newswriting (EL227) class, it seems we have been bashing television journalism to such a degree that we might as well categorize it as tabloid journalism.  I would like to take this opportunity to defend television journalism by pointing out some flaws in the logic of an ex-anchor for some unnmaed television station. 

This blog is mainly in response to an assigned reading, "TV Stations Are Completely Rating Driven--and Driven By Consultants," by Greg Byron. 

1.  Where is Greg Byron's proof that these things are going on?  True, they may have happened in the news station he previously worked for, but how can he possibly say it happens everywhere when he has no research?

2.  "It might be very interesting to find out if widespread fears in the nation about crime are fanned by TV people who deliberately tug viewer emotions night after night" (3).  This quote follows criticism that claims news stations amp up viewer emotions by making viewers think that the crime being shown on television could happen in their neighborhood.  Byron thinks that the reason elderly people are always so frightened about crime because of the news.  I don't know the statistics on that, but neither does he. 

What I can say in defense of news stations comes from personal experience.  Friday (8-28-09) I moved from my apartment on the ground level to the thrid floor.  The reason?  I could never feel comfortable being left alone in the quasi-subteranean apartment next to a cemetary where the windows could not be viewed from the street.  Was the news to blame for my "irrational" fear of a break-in?  No.  Were the criminals that have plagued my neighborhood recently the ones to blame for this fear? Yes.  The news only made me aware that these crimes were happening so I could be more vigilant. 

"What crimes?" you may ask.  How about the two teenagers who stole a car in Mount Pleasant (where I used to live) and drove all the way to Greensburg only to be arrested by police (following a minor accident) approximately 100 feet from my apartment.  What about the Super 8 that was robbed at needle-point by a man claiming it contained the HIV virus.  Not only is that right across the highway from where I live, but I was planning to go apply there this summer.  I could have been working there that day.  Not only that, but the hotel next door (Four Points by Sheraton) is where I formerly worked.  Issac's Ale House and the Sunoco (in Youngwood) were both robbed.  Isn't that a little to close for comfort?  And within the past week or two, a man was arrested following a high speed car chase.  He was armed and believed to be dangerous.  Where did this chase begin?  In the parking lot of a business where my live-in boyfriend just stopped working.  This building is right across the road from wh "It might be very interesting to find out if widespread fears in the nation about crime are fanned by TV people who deliberately tug viewer emotions night after night" (3).  This quote follows criticism that claims news stations amp up viewer emotions by making viewers think that the crime being shown on television could happen in their neighborhood.  Byron thinks that the reason elderly people are always so frightened about crime because of the news.  I don't know the statistics on that, but neither does he.   

SO.  If anyone wants to say the news causes this fear, they can come talk to me.  I'm glad I knew this kind of crime was happening so I could move to a safer place.

3. "These consultants were not paid to recommend serious journalism.  They were paid to get viewers" (1).  Fundamentally, Byron's statement is true.  The purpose of hiring a consultant would be to find ways to get more viewers.  However, Byron tries to make the point that the only reason news stations broadcast is for the purpose of getting viewers.  Quite obviously this logic is flawed.  A person does not get up and just start singing and do it every day because they want an audience.  They get up and sing because they want to sing.  If an audience follows, then they know they have done well, and vice versa. 

The same goes for a news station.  Producers are not going to all of a sudden one day decide to start making a news program just because they want people to watch something they made.  They are going to make a news program because they want to tell the news.  Of course they want to keep viewers interest, and that is where the consultant comes in.  Honestly.  What is so wrong with making the news more appealing?  What's so wrong with a news station wanting "anchors which are familiar, friendly, attractive," (1).  Quite frankly, I don't want to watch Gilbert Godfrey or Carrot Top giving me the news.  They'd drive me nuts. 

Return to Dr. Jerz's Newswriting Webpage.      


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