It’s remarkable that websites like Maui Now and MauiWatch describe themselves as “news organizations.” Maui Now “is 100% focused on covering news that matters to Maui,” it says. Maui Watch says it’s “the model for high quality crowd sourced news in the 21st century.”
Sorry, I just laughed so hard I fell on the floor. Seriously though, Maui Now and MauiWatch are what we call aggregators–they subscribe to various government agencies’ email lists, reprint whatever press releases they receive and call it “news.” There is no “covering” anything–no additional reporting, no giving context for readers, nothing. All they do is reprint whatever the government agency tells them.
Last night, both organizations outdid themselves providing me with a wonderfully ridiculous example of this process. At about 5:19pm last night, I got an emailed news release from the Hawaii Attorney General’s office titled “ALLEGED LEASH LAW VIOLATOR CHARGED.”
Right off the bat, that’s weird. Leash law violations are, like, near the bottom of priorities for prosecutors in any jurisdiction. But the Hawaii Attorney General–who has been making headlines for the last few months going after the Trump Administration’s Muslim travel ban–is now prosecuting a leash law violator?
Pretty much, according to the news release:
52-year old Maui resident Mark Simonds was charged today with multiple violations of the Maui County Code’s leash laws and one count of failing to properly register one of his dogs.
According to the complaint, Simonds failed to keep his two dogs under restraint, as required by law. The violations occurred at various times between August 2016 and May 2017. The complaint also alleges that one of his dogs was not properly licensed.
The complaint itself lists 13–THIRTEEN!–counts of leash law violations and one count of having an unlicensed dog. Immediately, both MauiWatch and Maui Now posted stories on this. “Maui Man Charged with Alleged Leash Law Violations,” said Maui Now. MauiWatch went with “AG charges Maui resident with alleged leash law violations.”
Both stories played very close to the news release. As such, neither story mentioned WHY the Hawaii Attorney General was prosecuting “Maui resident” Simonds with damned leash law violations (presumably because the news release itself didn’t include the reason).
Well, here’s the reason: Mark Simonds is a Maui County deputy prosecuting attorney. Since it’s a conflict of interest for his own office to prosecute him, the case got kicked up to the AG’s office.
In any case, Simonds told me he couldn’t comment on the charges against him (contacting him to get his side was also a courtesy neither Maui Now nor MauiWatch extended to him).
“I look forward to exercising my right to due process, and to a full and fair hearing in this matter,” Simonds said.
Joshua Wisch, the Special Assistant to the Attorney General who first sent out the news release, didn’t comment when I asked why his office had bothered to alert the media in the first place about such a low priority prosecution. “Thanks for your email, but not much to add at this time beyond what’s already in the news release and complaint,” he said.
Photo: Alexander Baranov/Flickr