David Rosman, Columbia MO
August 6, 2010
The temperature was approaching 98 degrees, the humidity made it feel more like 103, and I received my copy of Mike Martin’s online “Columbia Heart Beat.” (08/03/2010) Not quite a weekend in paradise, then again that was Tuesday.
This issue of Heart Beat contains two stories concerning the 2010 National Bikers Roundup. The first deals with the language of fear emanating from the media, specifically mentioning the Columbia Tribune.
The second article deeply concerned me. Martin wrote about an email written by a “Columbia police department detective” warning readers to “be on guard for thefts, violence, and biker-gang hooliganism.” Not Martin’s words, but propaganda straight from the internal security services of the People’s Republic of China and Soviet Union.
The 300-word column ends with an interesting statement. It seems that Martin’s “attempts to confirm the identity of the emailing Paul Revere (Martin’s nom de plume for the email’s author) were unsuccessful.” If Martin only picked up the telephone and call public information officer Jessie Haden of the Columbia Police Department. She told me that she received no call from Martin.
I like Officer Haden and when asked about the email and Martin’s story, I could hear the smile on her face stretch ear to ear. She told me that this was an otherwise nonstory until the email went viral in the University of Missouri listserv.
Haden said that, yes, it was a Columbia police officer who wrote the email, but it was on his own time, unauthorized and “ill conceived.” She was putting it nicely.
She said that there are three reasons this officer’s actions are under investigation and should be suspect to the readers. First, it was not written professionally; definitely not something that would have originated from the CPD’s communication office. Especially not from Jessie Haden.
Second, there was some important and sensitive information in the email that the CPD would not have authorized for release.
Third, though there are warnings and apocalyptic predictions, there is no information telling the citizens of our fair community what to do. Yes, they are bikers, but very few are the “hardened bikers” that the email purported.
The biggest problem the CPD foresees the week was a lot of traffic, especially on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and noise. Most ride Harley Davison motorcycles and Harleys are not known for their extra quiet sound repression systems.
The email may not have started as malice, but the CPD officer who wrote the original email with no forethought as to the information disclosed or the consequences of his or her actions.
Usually Martin is very good at what he does and we all make mistakes. Unfortunately, this is a big one. Journalist, professional or citizen, must do the research and complete the story.
Here is the bottom line. There will be over 15,000 riders expected at the fair ground this week. A few participants have rivalries with other riders or groups and a few have a thing against law enforcement.
Haden wants the public to know the CPD and the Boone County Sheriff’s Department do have extra officers and deputies on duty, not because they will need them to quell the riots, but to follow the Boy Scout’s motto of “Be Prepared.”
The vast majority of the riders are good people like you and me – Okay you – who need to be welcomed to Columbia, Hallsville and the surrounding communities with open arms.
When reading warning or request emails, use with extra care before you forward them to your friends. Ask your gut if it feels right or is there something wrong with this picture. If your gut does not feel right, there is the trash.
David Rosman is an award winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in Communications, Ethics, Business and Politics. You can read more of David’s commentaries at InkandVoice.com and New York Journal of Books.com.