EDITORIAL: Always exercise good judgment when reading arrest stories

Campus is still abuzz with talk about Mike Anderson, the music and pre-med major who is now behind bars, awaiting trial for allegedly sexually assaulting a fellow student and making off with some of her personal belongings. Reaction around campus is generally one of shock and disbelief that a student, one of our own, was arrested for such a heinous act.

However, it’s all too easy to point fingers or form the proverbial lynch mob. In dire times, or in response to dire events, irrationality and sensationalism tend to take over sound, cool judgment. The media, especially the broadcast news, shares a good chunk of responsibility for this.

The fact of the matter is, whenever something terrible happens (ie. a kidnapping, terrorist plot, rape or murder) and someone is apprehended, the media pounces on that person like a pack of rabid wolves. Quite often, there is more to the story than the police, suspect, or media is letting on, and there’s always the possibility that the suspect turns out to be innocent – just ask Intel engineer Mike Hawash, detained without being charged, or John Ballard, a former death row inmate who was recently exonerated for the 1999 murders of two friends.

It should be made very clear that in the case of Anderson, if there really is a side to the story that the public doesn’t know about, it by no means could justify the act. However, nothing, including the actions of Jan. 17 in Pearson Residential College, is as straightforward as first portrayed on a breaking news alert, and it is easy to forget this. Whether or not Anderson is found to be guilty or not at this point almost doesn’t matter – his name and face have already been tarnished by the dramatic media sources who reached their verdict well before the trial ever began. Unfortunately, this is the intrinsic nature of modern media: Information is available and expected to travel so fast that it is easy to come to a conclusion before a prudent conclusion is possible.

Thus, it’s important to exercise sound thought and judgment and not give in to raw emotion when reading or watching stories on arrests, trials and executions. This applies not only to Anderson, but to any grisly story that appears on the local news, the trials (often no more than media spectacles) parroted on by Nancy Grace and friends, and even those episodes of “COPS” where the entire story seems painfully obvious. It certainly applies to any coverage you see in The Hurricane. What you see isn’t always what you get.

Until it is all settled in a court of law, it would be wise to not jump to conclusions, and remember that everyone, including if not especially the media, succumbs in to heated emotions. Follow Anderson’s fate with a calm and level head, and let it serve in the future as a reminder for all the countless similar cases, whether or not the accused is a member of your immediate communioty or not.