December 12, 2017 7:17 pm Last modified: 12:39 pm

CBS News Slides into Gutter with V.I. Murder Story

CBS News dove head first into the gutter last week, posting an article with the inflammatory headline: "VIRGIN ISLANDS POLICE TO BLAME IN NJ MAN’S UNSOLVED MURDER?"

On its face, the CBS News headline implicates the V.I. Police Department in a murder, while one must read reporter Stephanie Slifer’s entire article to find out the parents of victim James Malfetti III are not accusing the VIPD of complicity in murder, but of not solving the case fast enough. (See full CBS article in related links below)

CBS News put a question mark at the end of the headline to soften the (wildly misleading) assertion. But a question mark is not a free pass to say anything they want.

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No journalism review has made the case better than comedian Jon Stewart, who mocked Fox News’ heavy use of the punctuation, saying in 2006 that "Fox has figured out that by simply putting a question mark at the end of something, you can say (expletive) anything." (See: "The Daily Show: The Question Mark" in related links below)

Slifer ends her article citing the 56 V.I. homicides in 2012, cherry-picking one of the worst years in V.I. history, and ignoring much lower totals in 2011 or the most recent, 2013, in which there were 32 homicides territorywide. With that, CBS News again misled its readers, apparently to make the territory sound as scary as possible in order to make the article as juicy as possible.

I say "apparently," because CBS News has not responded to multiple phone messages and emails from the Source asking about these issues, left Feb. 13 and 14.

Citing a Daily News article, Slifer ends her article with the sentence: "The paper reports police in the territory failed to make arrests in about two-thirds of homicides in 2011 and 2012." This is just put out there, without context, as an indictment of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The Wall Street Journal, a wide array of New Jersey newspapers and a New York CBS affiliate all printed very similar stories about Malfetti’s parent’s concerns and the intervention of Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ). Numerous articles quote Menendez saying he is "deeply troubled by reports that the police treated a grieving mother and father as a nuisance to be ignored," and asking for the FBI to join the investigation.

But only CBS News chose to put up a misleading headline and put in misleading, cherry-picked homicide figures.

No one can fault the Malfettis for being upset and wanting more police action. And the VIPD can drop the ball, even when the victim is a V.I. police officer.

But that does not excuse CBS News’ misleading report. And the massive press coverage and direct intervention of a senator from New Jersey are troubling because of their selectivity.

Sen. Menendez, the city of Newark, New Jersey, which you represent, saw 111 murders in 2013. That’s 39.9 per 100,000 residents – higher than the U.S. Virgin Islands that year.

Newark had a clearance rate of about 31.6 percent in 2009, according to the ACLU – that’s lower than the territory.

How many letters of concern have you written about the 70-plus unsolved Newark murders last year? How many Wall Street Journal articles and CBS News articles were written excoriating the Newark police department for not solving them?

I hope the FBI does get involved and that they find the person or people responsible for this man’s murder. Maybe Menendez’ letter will somehow make the difference.

But CBS News should be embarrassed. And all the other non-Virgin Islands news outlets who leapt into action when they got this press release while ignoring hundreds of unsolved New Jersey murders lacking a senator’s press release should take a long look in the mirror and think about how they choose one story over another.

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  1. lann Reply

    Please know that the truth is the police in this case have failed the Malfetti family, and all law abiding citizens living in the USVI. They have treated the family with contempt, and have not done their job. This is unacceptable. The Malfettis, and all those that love the USVI deserve better. Please seek a better way, https://www.facebook.com/justiceforjimmymalfetti?sk=wall&filter=2 .
    Anyone who can offer information in this investigation can do so safely, and confidentially to Todd Phoenix, phoenixinvestigations.net
    Also, please check out the following report on the monitoring of the USVIPD, http://www.policemonitor.org/VI/reports/121813report.pdf
    We thank you for considering our concerns; let’s together make the USVI the true beauty it deserves to be.

  2. cgtstx Reply

    Listen, if the flip flop fits then wear it. And Bill you’re trying to make this into such an injustice. YOU should be embarrassed that in a “closed territory” of 106,000 residents that there is even close to 30 to 50 homicides a year. The VIPD are an incompetent gaggle of clueless – unintentional or intentional – amateurs who should be replaced by knowledgeable and talented professionals willing to do the job of policing these Islands. The fact that 70 plus percent of the murders go unsolved is disgusting if not criminal itself. Oh, and while I’m thinking of it did they ever find the street garbage that killed Peter DesJardins? And one last thing. You sound ridiculous trying to compare the VI with New Jersey or any other place in the states. And I’ll let YOU figure out why that is ridiculous. (I’ll give you a clue: NJ is no island to itself)

  3. annie murphy Reply

    I love the folks who sit on their asses accessing what the police do and don’t do. what do YOU do? you don’t have a clue what’s going on. complaining and being nasty is not a positive or useful activity, it’s an easy way to avoid actually doing anything about what is really wrong. So, don’t think you have actually done anything here except make everything worse.
    when was the last time you asked ANYONE what you could do to help them.
    never, is my guess. Do you even live here? there are a lot of problems in these islands, and it’s time for everyone who lives here to find a way to help our people.
    and you are totally wrong about your numbers on solved cases and prosecutions. why don’t you do some real research? But that would require some energy. casting aspersions requires almost none. these vile attacks are the problem, not the solution.

  4. cgtstx Reply

    You’re right Annie. The VIPD is doing a hell of job that’s why there was only 32 murders in a population that could fit into the Rose Bowl. Get your head outta the sand and take a look at what is going on around you. And it ain’t pretty. Like I said, if the flip flop fits then wear it and forget your defensive gum flap. It is not going to make this place any safer. Oh, and by the way, when did they catch the murdering garbage that killed Peter DesJardins? When? And one last thing. I would be “casting aspersions” if what I said was not true . . . but I imagine that truth to someone like yourself is like a cross thrown into the face of a Vampire: Intolerable.

  5. diggster Reply

    cgstx thanks for setting Annie straight
    her head is in her a$$ really far .
    nuff said…. appalling doesnt even do it.

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