Our mission at Norman Leaks is two fold. First, we seek to fill certain gaps in the local news coverage. These gaps in coverage are the result of political compromises made by the reporters, editors, and publishers of the established local publications.
Second, we wish to open up local government and help make information accessible. We want other citizens to have the tools they need to easily access, examine, and analyse information about their government. We will conduct our own investigations while also providing access to government documents and leaked information that otherwise wouldn’t see the light of day.
With the launch of this new publication, our first series of Norman Leaks investigations will continue to focus on the under-reported stories involving law enforcement. Our contributors will continue to examine recent allegations of police harassment, false arrests, negligence, and the use of excessive force.
This series of reports is focused not on showcasing misconduct or wrongdoing by police. Instead, it is about telling some of the buried, untold stories that aren’t picked up by the local press. In order to have an honest dialogue about law enforcement policy, information must be accessible. We believe it is necessary to try and fill the gaps in the local news coverage and make sure information is accessible to Norman voters.
While the editors at Norman Leaks appreciate seeing positive stories about law enforcement, Norman residents aren’t getting the whole picture. It’s rare to see reports in the local media where the actions of law enforcement are called into question or subject to scrutiny.
While many feel the Norman Police Department staff has an excellent record of service to the community, those stories with less-than desirable outcomes deserve to heard too. Such stories are suspiciously absent from the local press outlets like the Norman Transcript. We know the stories out there. They should not be buried. It’s not about opposing law enforcement. It’s an effort to hold an honest dialogue about the policies and working conditions for city employees that make for good government.
Local press outlets represent a compromised, crippled, and corrupted form of journalism. For whatever reason, many reporters avoid covering any potentially controversial subjects. The cause for his may be subtle or overt. Reporters may form friendly and cordial relationships with their subjects at city hall. As a result of that frequent contact and cordiality, they may feel obligated not to report stories that might raise questions about police conduct. Reporters don’t want to jeopardize their relationships with City Hall or limit their access to information. They want to stay on good terms with the people they rely on for tips and stories.
Various city officials, including those in law enforcement, have easy access to and influence over the reporters covering local government issues. Sadly, that means reporters often kowtow to the powers that be, serving as a public relations outlet for the city government. Exceptions to this rule are fewer and fewer these days. Use of force incidents that have gone awry, resulting in injury, death or charges filed against NPD are not often covered by the local media.
Norman Leaks rejects the idea that journalists should compromise their coverage due to personal or political pressures from their friends and acquaintances in government. Journalists must remain independent and resist pressures from their employers, their subjects, and their sources at city hall. If reporters can’t meet that basic requirement, then they are not journalists. Their business is public relations.
We welcome Norman Leaks readers to join us on this endeavor by submitting content, tips, story ideas, or documented research.
M. Casey Holcomb, editor – Norman Leaks