It's meta-surveillance video

 - 
07/11/2008
You post-structuralists out there will appreciate this story: Jacksonville police have video of someone stealing surveillance video. I know. Wha? The story is about as badly organized and constructed as possible, but the first paragraph gets the gist of it: One day after three men robbed a young mother at gunpoint, inside her home - someone stole the surveillance video from detectives. That theft was caught on camera. I mean, that's a really crappy couple of sentences (is there a reason for the hyphen?), but the point is that one crime (the robbery of the young mother) was caught on home surveillance footage. And then that footage, which was in the possession of the police, was stolen. And they got that crime on video, too. And, seriously, I've got to go through the whole rest of this article because it's just too crazy in so many ways: Doctor Royce McGowan refuses to watch Wednesday's surveillance video of the invasion into his Arlington home. His wife, mother-in-law and baby were inside the home when the men kicked in the front door. "I just listened to it once. I can't listen to it again. It enrages me," said McGowan. Yes, really, that's the next paragraph in the story. Yes, you can figure out why we're talking about McGowan (I like how they spell out "Doctor" - that's totally AP style), but it's not actually clear from the preceding paragraph which seems to talk about a young mother. And in the first paragraph, why was only the young mother relevant? Usually, if there's a baby involved, that baby's in the lede (that's a journalism term there - you're supposed to spell it wrong). And why are we talking about "listening" to surveillance footage? Shouldn't we be watching it? Did McGowan refuse to watch the video and only listen, and only do that once before turning over the footage to the coppers? I'm confused. He gave the video to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. He hopes the clear pictures of the men will help detectives find them. Why are we in the present tense for the second paragraph here, especially considering this next sentence? However his home surveillance video was stolen from police. The theft was caught on his office surveillance camera Thursday. "Crime is everywhere - you can't escape it," said McGowan. This doesn't really seem like a potential problem. How could the video be stolen? There was only one copy of the footage and that was given to the police? What was it a VHS tape or something that they didn't make a copy of? This doesn't seem remotely possible. And I'd like the "his office" to be a little clearer. Why are the cops interviewing the couple at McGowan's office if the incident happened in their home? I'm still confused. While a JSO detective was interviewing the couple inside the office, the surveillance cameras caught a man pulling up next to the detectives car in the parking lot. It would kill people to use apostrophes correctly. How do we show possession? Maybe by writing "detective's"? After scoping out the car for more than 10 minutes, the man broke out the car's back window and stole the laptop. Inside that laptop was a DVD of the surveillance video from Wednesday's home invasion. "Without that... we wouldn't have any recollection on who did it," said McGowan. Okay, I love that a guy was able to smash the window of a cop car, steal a laptop, and get away without anyone doing anything about it. That's awesome. But, seriously, why is a reporter acting like it's news that a DVD of surveillance video was stolen? Is it possible that's the only copy of the footage, like there's a security camera out there that just spits out DVDs and if you lose that DVD, well, you're SOL (that's also a very important journalistic term, but I'm not going to spell it out for you)? Isn't it more newsworthy that a cop's laptop was stolen? That seems like a bigger deal to me. McGowan had just moved into the Brentwood Avenue office two months ago. The cameras have been in place for fewer than three weeks. This doesn't seem relevant to me, but those are, indeed, two declarative sentences. His security company, Homeland Security Group, was able to replace the DVD. The laptop and the thief are still missing. Huh. So that first paragraph, where it was newsworthy that the surveillance video was stolen, was kind of disingenuous, wasn't it? Because you, the reporter, already know that footage was easily replaceable and therefore this isn't news. And what about the surveillance footage of the laptop theft? Did we get a license plate number? Is the face visible? No idea. At least they named the security company. That's a rarity. JSO says there is no sensitive information on the laptop. This might be my favorite part. A cop's laptop has "no sensitive information" on it? How are we defining "sensitive" here? What does he use the laptop for? Playing Minesweeper when he's bored by the side of the highway? So, a cop's laptop is stolen from the back of his car and we're worried about the DVD inside of it? Super. McGowan plans to add cameras to their home and business. Why? You caught both recent crimes on video. Is this just a last sentence because it seemed like there had to be a last sentence somewhere? Well done, award-winning news anchor Victor Blackwell (or, more likely, Victor's intern). Well done.