- - Thursday, March 16, 2023

A television journalist in Philadelphia is under fire for vigorously reporting on crime in the city, which everyone knows is out of control. Leftists in the media believe that highlighting the criminals is more harmful to the community than the violent crime being inflicted on terrified residents.

Steve Keeley, who’s been reporting at Fox 29 for 21 years, is like a machine, turning out a continuous stream of stories about Philadelphia crime, which itself is never-ending (it’s not possible for a single journalist to cover more than a minuscule fraction of the crimes). His Twitter feed is like a condensed police blotter.

Just a single recent 24-hour period of Mr. Keeley’s tweets leaves the impression of a city in chaos.

He happened to be on the scene and posted a video of a car purposely ramming the front door of police headquarters. He reported on a police officer, shot in the line of duty last month, being released from the hospital. He related the latest killing, with the victim being a 21-year-old man whose car was peppered by at least 13 bullets. He posted security video of the attempted armed robbery of a convenience store wherein the culprits used an ax to try to crack open an ATM. He publicized the make and model of a car connected to a hit-and-run that killed a 70-year-old man. And then he tweeted about a separate hit-and-run that left a 58-year-old woman dead. It is often Mr. Keeley’s practice to include videos, pictures or screenshots of police reports in his tweets.

Naturally, this has upset some people on the left, but it’s not the crime that bothers them. It’s the reporting of it that’s problematic.

Philadelphia magazine analyzed a study of the city’s media and concluded that Mr. Keeley’s station devoted far more stories to local crime than any other news outlet. In a follow-up piece in the magazine, several critics came forward with negative takes on Mr. Keeley, including some of his media colleagues.

Cherri Gregg, a longtime radio journalist in Philadelphia who now hosts a show for the city’s NPR-affiliated WHYY, told the magazine that Mr. Keeley’s work “definitely makes me cringe” and that “[c]rime coverage can be very harmful and scares people.”

She said she feared that minority communities, specifically men, could be hurt by such journalism. She did not express concern for people in those same communities who have been victimized by crime, nor did she say the reporting was inaccurate.

Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Jenice Armstrong chimed in as well, calling Mr. Keeley’s Twitter feed “disturbing,” but not because of the constant crime in the city.

“It’s embarrassing,” someone said about Mr. Keeley’s work from inside Fox 29, anonymously.

The journalists strongly imply that Mr. Keeley’s reporting is racist. That’s quite a serious charge, but what’s really happening is the standard liberal reflex to protect criminals over the law-abiding, no matter who they are.

Scrolling through Mr. Keeley’s tweets reveals pictures of suspects and arrestees, and they are not all of the same race. He spent considerable time reporting on the capture of a man suspected of killing Temple University police officer Chris Fitzgerald, who was Black. Mr. Keeley posted photos of the accused cop killer, a White teenager from the suburbs, whom he described as “[s]pending his first of thousands of nights locked up.”

(Full disclosure: I’m a native of the Philadelphia area and a Temple graduate.)

Maybe it’s preferable to some to pretend that crime isn’t happening when it obviously is.

In 2021, the city set a record for itself with 556 murders. In 2022, homicides receded some — to 504 — and there were fewer rapes, but robberies were up significantly, leading the overall violent crime rate to increase slightly. Property crimes, meanwhile, grew by a whopping 30%, year over year. For what it’s worth, homicides are down compared with the same date in the last two years but are well ahead of the pace of any year before 2021.

This thing in Philadelphia is akin to the situation in Washington, where the City Council’s response to rampant crime was to reduce penalties on criminals. Congress stepped in to stop that nonsense, and some liberals, including D.C.’s mayor and President Biden, climbed on board. 

Nonetheless, even though some elected Democrats acknowledged that it’s bad politics to go soft on criminals in a crime wave, it didn’t stop activists from staging protests.

And of course, at a Union Station demonstration in support of D.C.’s plan to relax sentences for carjacking, an attempted car theft occurred. You can’t make it up.

I guess the question for lefties is: Is it OK to report on the loud irony of that crime, or would that be harmful too?

• Tim Murtaugh is a Washington Times columnist and vice president for communication strategy at National Public Affairs, a political consulting firm.

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide

Sponsored Stories