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National Media Hits And Runs

Long after the national pack moves on to the next hot story, the local press is left to deal with the fallout from its offensive behavior.

Sandpoint residents, particularly those in the Euclid Avenue neighborhood, understandably are upset by the media feeding frenzy surrounding newcomer Mark Fuhrman.

They don’t like arrogant reporters and photographers trespassing in their yards and driveways. They empathize with a famous neighbor who’s trying to protect his young family from the circus camped at his doorstep. They’re insulted by inane questions from distant journalists who wouldn’t know Sandpoint from a sand dollar.

A Florida reporter, for example, was amazed that the community wasn’t consumed by the O.J. Simpson trial and asked if residents had television.

The arrogance and insensitivity characterized by pack journalism give all of us in the business a bad name. Long after CNN, the networks and the New York Times move on to the next hot story, the local press is left to deal with the fallout from their offensive behavior.

Of course, some people considered this newspaper offensive for our attempt to interview Furhman last winter at the Spokane International Airport.

Acting on a tip, staff photographer Dan McComb and a reporter spotted Fuhrman and his wife eating lunch at an airport restaurant. After introducing themselves, the two left so the Fuhrmans could finish their meal in peace. Fuhrman then granted a 10-minute interview but became violently upset when McComb photographed him walking through the airport. This is exactly the type of behavior that has Fuhrman in trouble today.

Unfortunately, the national media doesn’t observe some of the same “rules of engagement” as we do here. Generally, most local media try to be considerate to people trapped by circumstances in the spotlight. We realize that we’re dealing with our neighbors or sources we’ll have to face again. We don’t like to burn bridges. Even when we need to be confrontive, we try to use discretion.

In covering major regional stories - like the Fairchild Air Base shootings and crash, Ruby Ridge, the militia movement and the ongoing Aryan Nations saga - the local media are forced to become part of the pack, scrambling for information. But that doesn’t mean we’re going to mimic its behavior.

A press card isn’t a license to trample flower beds, or to shove a microphone into the face of a grieving relative, to break the law, or to harass the family of an infamous ex-cop. Sandpoint police were called to the Fuhrmans’ home several times to keep media from trespassing on their property and knocking on their door.

Such antics demean all of us in the media.

Sandpoint Councilman Ray Miller summed up the community’s reaction to the frenzy best: “Regardless of what Fuhrman did or didn’t say, he’s entitled to peace and quiet in his own home.” We agree.

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = D.F. Oliveria/For the editorial board