Richard Jewell got his half-million bucks, so I guess he's satisfied with the whole deal, but I still wish he'd filed a case and pursued it to the Supreme Court. Even AFTER the Richard Jewell case--where an innocent man was hounded half to death by a media convinced of his guilt--we've got slacker newshounds crawling all over people's lives BEFORE CHARGES ARE FILED.
I'm gonna ask this one more time: Whatever happened to the Cop Shop Commandment Numero Uno, which says, "Thou shalt keep one's mouth closed until formal charges are made"?
We had two more examples in the last few months. First we had the two Dallas Cowboys, Michael Irvin and Erik Williams. Williams was accused of raping a woman while Irvin held a gun to her head. No charges were ever filed, and the accuser turned out to be a complete liar. But during the two weeks it took to get her to confess, we had 47 MILLION articles, editorials, columns and gossip items calling these guys a disgrace to their profession, implying that the whole Dallas Cowboys organization is rotten to the core, accusing Jerry Jones of letting his team run wild (like a team owner can be expected to control ANYTHING about the private lives of grown men)--and then, when the whole thing fizzled, it was a few paragraphs on page A-7.
I have yet to see a SINGLE apology from any columnist who laid into these guys. This is in keeping with the current journalistic ethic that assumes 1) they're fair game because they're pro athletes, 2) they're fair game because they're millionaires, 3) people talk about them so much SOME of it must be true and 4) if they didn't commit the rape, they probably did something else equally bad.
But let's look at the record. Michael Irvin: one conviction for possession of coke. Erik Williams: one conviction for drunk driving. You can find more felonious behavior on the set of any major motion picture.
And then, as though they ran out of people to crucify, the barking dogs converged on Boulder, Colorado, to throw as much dirt as possible on the Ramsey family without actually accusing them of anything except putting too much makeup on their beauty-contestant 6-year-old.
Again: no charges filed.
Again: no way to know who's guilty or innocent for months, if not years.
Someday, when a Richard Jewell No. 2 comes along, we're gonna end up with a Supreme Court case that makes it possible for nine justices to say: "OK, that's it. The First Amendment stops right here."
As a guy who loves the First Amendment, I REALLY wish you guys would knock it off. Wait for the goldurn charges to be filed.
Why am I the only person left who believes in the reporting principle that EVERYBODY observed for over a hundred years?
Lemme say it one more time. This is the order of reporting:
Arrest made. Write story.
Charges filed. Write story.
Indictment returned. Write story.
Verdict returned. Write story.
The only exception to this is when you SEE THE CRIME WITH YOUR OWN EYES. OK?
Is this clear?
I hope so.
Joe Bob's Find That Flick
We Have a Winner!
In the Oct.13 column, Andy Freeman of Palo Alto, Calif., wrote: "I once had an opportunity to spend a winter in Denmark. While there, I got to watch TV in my choice of three languages I didn't understand. They weren't showing any violence, so the only thing I could figure out without dialog was the hooters.
"One particular flick has haunted me since then. As near as I can figure out, this struggling artist stud-muffin was living near the beach with his big black dog when a somewhat spoiled babe decides to 'get involved.' One day she takes the dog for a walk on the beach (the reason involved words, so I don't know what it was, but it sure looked lame).
"She gets 'spontaneous,' rips off her clothes, and dives into the water. The dog, of course, follows. After a bit of romping, she notices that she hasn't seen the dog for a while. The man appears on the beach.
"They find the dog, drowned. She realizes that killing the guy's dog probably isn't going to make him happy, so she does the obvious. Right--she takes the collar off the dog, puts it on herself and becomes his 'dog.'
"No, that's not the end of the movie, but I forget whether he forgives her eventually, or who leaves.
"I can't tell you what language this film was originally made in. I can say that there wasn't any gun fu, nor were there car chases, explosions, undead or any of the other things that often make for a great movie, but I still want to know what was going on. Can you help?''
We had one correct answer, and it came from Dan Schwartz of Scottsdale, Arizona:
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"Andy is referring to the intriguingly named 1990 flick, Pucker Up and Bark Like A Dog.
"The girl is played by Lisa Zane, and the movie features Phyllis Diller in a small role and Robert Culp in a tiny role.''
1997 Joe Bob Briggs. Distributed by NYT Special Features
To discuss the meaning of life with Joe Bob, write to Joe Bob Briggs, P.O. Box 2002, Dallas, Texas 75221 or fax him at 213-462-5982. Joe Bob even hangs out on the Internet: firstname.lastname@example.org