All news organizations want to make an impact. This week, Crosstown LA’s impact was felt in an unexpected way: A number of our articles and charts were featured on Los Angeles mayoral candidate Rick Caruso’s campaign website.
Our journalism is free and available to the public, and we want as many people to read our work as possible. But winding up in the campaign literature of a mayoral candidate gives us occasion to restate our editorial values.
The charts the campaign used had to do with our crime coverage, specifically homicides, stolen cars and crimes involving people experiencing mental illness. Public safety is a pressing issue in Los Angeles. Much of the local news coverage of crime lately paints a bleak picture of a city beset by violence.
The true picture is more nuanced. At Crosstown, we rarely report on individual crimes that often make the headlines elsewhere. Instead, we use data. Reporting on individual crimes can cause fear, even panic. It can also reinforce harmful racial stereotypes that distort the statistics on crime.
By using data, we add broader context to the way we cover crime. The data also allows us to highlight how public safety issues vary from place to place. For example, some pockets of Los Angeles might be experiencing a spike in burglaries, but across the city, the numbers are lower than they have been in years.
Crosstown is not the only news outlet the Caruso campaign cites on its website (though we are the only one referenced for crime). Politicians frequently use news reports to make their case. However, in this instance, there is an additional wrinkle: Crosstown is based out of the USC Annenberg School of Journalism and the Viterbi School of Engineering. Caruso is the outgoing chairman of the USC board of trustees.
For this reason, it’s important that we affirm our editorial independence from all political campaigns, but this one in particular.
We are a mission-driven organization that harnesses data with the goal of helping the communities of Los Angeles become safer, healthier and more connected. We have an independent board of advisors and a clear ethical framework for how we report. We seek to be transparent with our audience about the sources of our data and we respond promptly to queries about our work.
Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re always here if you want to reach us.