Thursday, April 12, 2012

ESPN's Scoop Jackson Intervenes

Yesterday I read a sad five-part series on  It detailed the end of the life of a young man and basketball player identified by the pseudonym LaTravis Hawkins.

But it's not the story itself I want to write about.  It's the behavior of the author Scoop Jackson.

In the five-part series, Jackson writes about how he helped the ill-fated Hawkins in a variety of ways, help that ranged from getting Hawkins a new jacket to trying to enroll him in a new school because he didn't want to attend his old one any longer. 

This is a screen shot of a very small part of the final story in Scoop Jackson's series, including the picture that went with the article.

Jackson even says in the final installment that he and his wife talked about adopting LaTravis, and from the way the article was written, it seems opposition from Hawkins' mother derailed their idea before it got too far along (From reading the article, I would even guess the adoption would have been carried out otherwise, but I obviously don't know the details). 

While Jackson's actions are certainly noble, they're not exactly encouraged in the world of journalism. 

Standard journalism ethics require a reporter to maintain a certain disconnect from his or her sources, and from reading his series this afternoon, it certainly doesn't seem that Jackson was disconnected from LaTravis Hawkins at all.  

These lines come from the fourth story in the series:

"I put in calls, called in favors, everything," Jackson wrote of his attempts to get Hawkins enrolled in a new school.  "With the help of God and every other spiritual being of a higher power, a last-minute opening came up at a school where a friend of mine is the principal."

In the second part of the series when Jackson tries to take Hawkins to a big high school basketball game:

"We set a time for me to pick him up. And this time I knew I had the address right, because it was the address he'd given his school for their records. I had a coat in the car for him. But when I arrived at his place and rang the doorbell, there was no answer. I went to one of the courts, to see if he was there balling. Nope. Went to the address where he said his grandmother lives: no answer."

So was he really an impartial observer of Hawkins' demise if he was constantly trying to keep the young man off the streets, constantly and consciously trying to become involved in his life?

I don't believe that was the case.

Again, I think Scoop Jackson certainly had good intentions in mind when he tried to help this young man.  Jackson also says at the beginning of the first story (dated December 5, 2007) that he had been acquainted with Hawkins prior to beginning the project. 

Jackson writes in his first story:

"I've known LaTravis Hawkins for more than three years now.  He plays in the same biddy program as my kids. I've had the pleasure of coaching him in a few games, and I've let him be my assistant coach when I've filled in because another team's coach couldn't make it. Whenever I walk into the gym, he runs my way. Wraps his arms around my waist, ducks his head into my chest -- hugs from heaven."

But trying so much and going so far out of your way to help those you're writing about...I'm not so sure that really means you're doing journalism anymore. 

Again, I don't think Jackson engaged in wrongdoing by helping Hawkins so much, but maybe the articles serve as more of a memoir than as journalism.

I'm really interested to know what other people think.

The following are links to the five parts of the series by Scoop Jackson:

First article

Second article

Third article

Fourth article

Fifth article

No comments:

Post a Comment