What Goes Around ...
Wonder why so little of the back story of the homeless beatings has appeared in the Sun-Sentinel or Miami Herald? Wonder why we know so little on the teens who turned in the three suspects? Or why we know next to nothing about what really happened the night three homeless men were beaten, one of them to death?
Well, a clue comes from the website, southfloridaracing.com, where friends of the suspects were on-line on January 12 and named Tom Daugherty and "Brian" as the culprits. This a day before Daugherty and Brian Hooks were arrested by police.
Two days after the posts appeared, Sun-Sentinel reporter Brian Haas sent one of the knowledgeable youths on southfloridaracing.com -- a 19-year-old boy from Plantation who uses the name "WannabeSS" -- an e-mail soliticing information. To wit:
"Hello. My name is Brian Haas and I am a writer for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel newspaper. I'm interested in speaking to you about the beating of the three homeless men. I'm particularly interested in talking to you about Mr. Daugherty and any other people you're hearing were involved in this. Please call me as soon as you can to discuss this if you're interested. It's Saturday at 6:30 p.m. and I'll be here until about 8 p.m. Thank you. Brian Haas South Florida Sun-Sentinel."
Well, WannabeSS didn't cotton to that at all. He posted the Haas letter on the website at precisely 8 p.m. that day, commenting, "What a fucking loser ..."
The next post came from "BewstAdd1ct," who added this satirical quote to Haas's request: "I'm interested in fucking you over in print."
WannabeSS returned, "Yea, his name is sunsentinalreporter or something ... i think you should ban him."
Later, a poster going by "Classic Chrome" wrote, "Never trust the media. Never ever ever. It is not their job to help ANYONE but themselves. They wouldn't even display Amber Alerts if it didn't boost their ratings."
When WannabeSS learned Haas had quoted the web site in the Sentinel, he wrote, "he should have quoted me saying 'fuck off' ... "
A lot of the underlying rancor comes from years of newspaper coverage of the young drag racers, who believe they've been unfairly portrayed as a menace to society, or lumped in with a few members of their ranks who are. The racers have long believed reporters are nothing more than parrots for cops.
"You know, I wish these bullshit piece of shit reporters would actually do something to HELP us instead of exploit us. Fuck you, Mr. Reporter," wrote "Jason."
Some of the kids were less cordial, making lewd comments about what they'd like to do to Mr. Haas, but I won't dignify them here. But even kin of the press turned on the media. A boy who said he was the nephew of Rick Robb, an editor at the Palm Beach Post, wrote: "Actually my Uncle (Rick Robb) used to work for the sun-sentinal, now he works for the palm beach post. And a warning to any who might give up interviews, I know [Sun-Sentinel metro columnist] Mike Mayo in particular will set you up for stuff in his story. He did it to me for an opening to his story a couple years ago."
On Saturday, the Sentinel published a story about southfloridaracing.com that left out their own prominent role in the posts and ignored some of the more interesting clues to the crime contained within the site. Instead it focused on the predictable "more and more police are using the Internet to solve crimes" angle. Later that day, Classic Chrome wrote, "The media is a speakerphone for law enforcement, but of course this is not news."
Now all of this comes from a subset of teens who are especially bitter (and familiar) with mainstream media coverage, but you think maybe the sentiments are representative of the way a lot of young America looks at the press? Right or wrong, the perception is helping to keep the real story from being told, leading to headlines like "Attacks on homeless: baffling," which appeared in the Herald yesterday. We'll call that our story of the day.