What you are about to read is old news. You get this paper in your mailbox on Wednesday or Thursday, but we actually send it to the printer on the previous Friday. While that piece of information may not seem particularly interesting, it is relevant.
We like to think that the delay in our publication forces us to make sure our stories include both information and perspective, that they are not forced by the constraints of the 24/7 news cycle – or the even more demanding need to be the first to send a tweet about some topic or another. At times, this perspective is a blessing. Other times, it is a curse.
It seems that the events in Ferguson, Missouri, over the last week and a half, have been fueled by raw emotion – emotion that lacks perspective. We could not help but think that most all of the events would have turned out differently if any of the people involved had considered what their actions would have looked like five days later.
As we are writing this editorial, Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson has just released the name of the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown. He also released surveillance photos from a “strong arm robbery” that occurred at an unnamed convenience store minutes before the shooting. These photos seem to show Brown actively participating in the robbery, grabbing and intimidating the clerk at the store. The police report that the suspects stole some Swisher Sweet cigars.
Thursday night, the night before we wrote this, was the most peaceful night in Ferguson since the shooting. Missouri State Highway Patrol had been placed in charge of policing the area. Members of the Highway Patrol handed out bottles of water to protesters. They talked to them. They let the protesters protest. Nobody looted, and there were no reports of violence.
On Wednesday night, two days before we wrote this, St. Louis County police used tear gas on a news crew in Ferguson. They arrested two reporters who were stationed at a McDonalds. They arrested a St. Louis alderman named Antonio French. The night was anything but peaceful. Ferguson looked and felt like a war zone.
On Tuesday night, three days before we wrote this, police responded to a disturbance involving four armed men wearing ski masks and apparently carrying handguns and shotguns. One of the men pointed a handgun at an officer and the officer shot him.
On Sunday night, five days before we wrote this, looters ravaged Ferguson. A QuickTrip convenience store was burned to the ground. A tire store was looted and completely cleaned out. The man who owned the tire store worried that his business was finished, that he would never recover. Rioters looted a Walmart and a Shoe Carnival.
On Saturday, six days before we wrote this, Michael Brown died on a street in Ferguson.
It is difficult to imagine that perspective would not have altered these events. The shooting, the looting and rioting, the police response, the release of information, the violence; for those of us not immediately involved it all seems so senseless. Put another way, it appears that it all lacks perspective.
Did the Highway Patrol do a “better job” than the St. Louis County Police? Or did they just benefit from perspective and the passing of time? It certainly seems like the latter.
On Friday, the day we wrote this, it seemed that tensions were rising to alarming levels in Ferguson once again. People were having an immediate, emotional response to the release of the officer’s name and the robbery photos. The live video from Ferguson and the tweets started to look a lot more like Tuesday or Wednesday than they did like Thursday.
We sincerely hope that the people of Ferguson and the police in Ferguson take the time to consider what this newsmagazine has to consider when we print on a Friday a newspaper that will be read on the following Wednesday.
We hope they consider the lessons of the last week, possibly even looking at them in reverse order, the same way we presented them above. They will see that perspective is an aid, and immediacy can be a horrible curse.
On Friday morning, as we are writing this, we are hopeful. We are praying for the police officers and the people of Ferguson. We are hopeful, but we are very, very scared that perspective will lose out to raw emotion once again.